Airline not used enough
USE it or risk losing it was the simple message from a group of high-profile
National Party politicians during their inspection of Rex Airline facilities at the Grafton airport yesterday.
The Member for Clarence, Steve Cansdell, was joined by Federal Nationals leader Warren Truss, Nationals Senate leader Barnaby Joyce, and Northern Territory senator Nigel Scullion for a brief inspection of the airport yesterday as part of efforts to get the Federal Government to continue its
regional airport subsidy scheme or similar scheme.
Mr Truss said he was concerned about the “fragility” of the air service between Grafton and Sydney, and the potential impact of the Federal Government's decision to end the scheme at the end of June next year.
The scheme, he said, cost the Government about $6 million a year, about half of which he thought would go to Rex Airlines because it had so many regional routes.
“The Budget confirmed it would not be extended beyond June 2012, although it looks likely to continue for emergency aircraft,” he said.
Mr Cansdell said it was
extremely important for the future of the economy of Grafton that Rex retained the route.
He said passenger numbers had dropped off, coinciding with a decline in the economy.
“It makes this very marginal,” he said.
Grafton's economy relied heavily on government departments, but they would take into account any connections with Sydney in future planning, he said.
Mr Truss said he would argue the scheme needed to be revamped, but stressed the biggest factor in whether an airline con-
tinued to service an area was passenger numbers.
“If people don't use it, it won't survive even with government subsidies,” he said.
“The scheme could be better targeted.
“The Government said it would put a new scheme in place, but it has never been announced.
“We committed at election time to retain the scheme, but it should be recast for new airlines.
“The subsidy only amounts to a few dollars a ticket. Airlines will not keep going just because there is a subsidy.
“I have had regular discussions with Rex.
“What it is trying to say to communities is that the service is at risk and if you are going to save it you are going to have to use it.”