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ACT NOW ON AIRFARES | The West Australian

The Federal Government needs to act on high-cost regional airfares, according to the head of a committee charged with looking at ways of shaking up regional air travel.

The Senate’s Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee on Friday tabled a 200-page report recommending price controls and other measures to tackle rip-off airfares.

The report urged the Morrison Government to launch a Productivity Commission inquiry and consider offering subsidised airfares for rural residents.

But Labor Senator and committee chairman Glenn Sterle fears the report will sit in Parliament and “collect dust” now it is in Federal Transport Minister Michael McCormack’s hands.

Mr Sterle yesterday told the Kalgoorlie Miner regional airfares in WA was a “terrible issue”.

He said the next move was “completely in the minister’s hands” but he was not optimistic anything would be done.

“It will do a number of things from here; it will either go straight to the minister’s desk because the minister is such a concerned person about the cost and he will act upon it,” Mr Sterle said.

“Or, my bet is, it will sit in the tabling office in the Parliament and collect dust.”

Mr McCormack refuted the second option yesterday, telling the Kalgoorlie Miner Canberra would be looking at the findings closely.

“The Government will give careful consideration to the report’s recommendations and respond in due course,” he said.

Launched in November 2017, the report faced several delays before it was tabled, which Mr Sterle blamed on sluggish responses from the airline industry.

The report has been tabled at a time when the State Government has been looking at ways of lowering regional airfares.

A year-long parliamentary inquiry was handed down in April last year and the subsequent State Aviation Strategy is expected to be released for public comment at the end of this year.

In the meantime, a deal struck between Qantas and the State Government in May last year meant passengers could snap up flights between Perth and Broome for less than $200.

Community airfares have also been made available for travel to Exmouth, Carnarvon, Monkey Mia, Leonora and Esperance.

But Kalgoorlie-Boulder residents have enjoyed little respite from rip-off air travel with return flights between Kalgoorlie-Boulder and Perth sometimes exceeding $1000.

Kalgoorlie-Boulder residents have access to resident fares through Qantas, but many in the community still feel aggrieved that more has not been done to curb high-cost flights.

It is an issue the State Government is aware of, but according to State Transport Minister Rita Saffioti, it is a work in progress with no quick fix.

Mr Sterle said it was hard to understand how planes flying over destinations such as Karratha on the way to Bali were offering cheaper airfares than domestic travel.

“I’m not a spear chucker for the aviation industry,” he said.

“They’ve got costs — we get all that — but by crikey, my eyebrows raise on how it can cost $200 to go to Broome one day and three days later it can be $1000. How does that work?

“I believe that the community groups and the business groups and the councils need to actually get into the ear of their elected representative and say this is a huge issue.”

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