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Monday, 24 February 2014
Page: 553

Regional Aviation

Mr TEHAN (Wannon) (14:28): My question is to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development. How will the government's policies assist regional aviation and the jobs that it supports?

Mr TRUSS (Wide BayDeputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development) (14:29): I thank the honourable member for the question and for the privilege of being with him in his electorate during the break. It was good to see and talk about some of the important infrastructure projects that this government has planned for Wannon and the neighbouring electorates.

The member would also know how important regional aviation is for so much of country Australia. People who live in regional communities depend on aviation not just to get to other places in the country or around the world but also for many of their basic services, such as health, education and the professional services they need in their community from the people who fly in to provide those services. Alternatively, country people so often have to go to the cities to get the health care and other things that they need. So the aviation industry is very, very important to regional Australia. It has been an industry facing significant competition and, obviously, high cost. It is a difficult environment.

However, since the carbon tax was put in place, the cost of regional aviation has increased dramatically—6c a litre added to the cost of aviation kerosene and 5c a litre added to the cost of avgas—and that puts up the cost of operating aviation right across the country. We all know that regional aviation companies have been reporting declining profitability. Sharp Airlines in the member's own electorate—

Mr Snowdon interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order, member for Lingiari!

Mr TRUSS: reckoned that this tax is costing them $400,000 a year, money that they find very difficult to recover from their passengers, and of course it also affects their profit margin. Rex have talked similarly about declining profit projections.

There is something that this parliament can do to make regional aviation more competitive and that is get rid of the carbon tax. If the opposition is serious about jobs in this country, then it should be voting to get rid of the carbon tax. It is a job-destroying tax. It is a service-destroying tax. It is a tax that tears particularly at regional communities because they have to pay such a significant share. So when members opposite talk about the need to look after Qantas and Virgin and the other major airlines, there is something that this parliament can do right now. The Senate should vote to get rid of the carbon tax that will tear hundreds of millions of dollars out of the cost structure of our airlines, to make them more profitable, to enable them to employ more people and to provide better services for the people of Australia.