Mr McCORMACK (Riverina) (1.48 pm)—Regional Express Airlines, Australia’s largest independent regional airline, is based in Wagga Wagga in my electorate of Riverina. Following the September 2001 collapse of Ansett, regional aviation was provided assistance through the Enroute Charges Rebate Scheme that provides a rebate of en route navigation charges.
The rebate was extended by the coalition government in the financial year 2007-08 for a further four years through until June 2012. In 2008 the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport announced the scheme would end but then changed his mind. Through the national aviation white paper the minister announced he would replace the en route rebate scheme with a revised scheme effective July 2010. Now, more than six months on, nothing has happened.
Since the release of the white paper in late 2009 there has been no consultation with the regional airline industry on the future of this scheme. The rebate provides an effective environment whereby marginal essential air services to regional communities are sustainable. Regional airlines provide access to a whole range of services which those in major cities take for granted. They bring health and medical service and a whole range of government and community services and they provide the basis for economic growth. The en route rebate scheme is the only form of federal government assistance provided to regional airlines and the annual cost of $6 million is a small price for the government to pay for the sustainable provision of critical regional air services.
Regional air operators such as Rex need the ability to plan ahead with confidence for the development of the services they currently provide, including to Griffith and Narrandera, as well as looking at potential new services to remote and regional communities which desperately need them. (Time expired)