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Monday, 23 March 1987
Page: 1282

Mr KATTER —Is the Minister for Aviation aware of moves in Queensland which could well result in a further deterioration in the already lamentably low standard of inland air services, excluding the jet schedules? Will he seek Federal Government support which will ensure the avoidance of such a disastrous move and will he act to give to the people of the inland who produce the major wealth of this nation a standard of air service, commensurate with that provided on the alleged major air routes, which keeps government members comfortable in the coastal areas and in the great cities?

Mr PETER MORRIS —I thank the honourable member for his question. I take it that it refers to some rearrangement of services in the western Queensland region by Australian Airlines. I do not have the detail of the changes that are being proposed, but I do know that there are changes proposed and that they arise from the fact that for years and years Australian Airlines have lost heavily on the provision of western Queensland services. This loss is due to low average loadings, which was an occurrence under his Government on both the occasions it was in power, and it remains today. There are times of the year when the people of that region do need services, and they peak and at that time the higher capacity is used, but on an average basis the loadings are very low. For many years Australian Airlines was able to cross-subsidise the provision of those services from other services within Queensland and the rest of Australia. But in more recent years a joint subsidy was paid by the Federal and State governments for a limited period. That subsidy was withdrawn by the Federal Government, for proper reasons, and subsequently by the Government of Queensland.

Whilst I appreciate the problem of the people concerned, the provision and licensing of intra- state air services in Queensland, in the manner in which the honourable member suggested, is essentially the responsibility of the Government of Queensland; but it has opted out of that subsidy responsibility. I say to the honourable member that whilst I understand his concern, his question would be better directed to the Government of Queensland. It may just be that those executive jet services to which he has referred could be provided by Joh's airline. That jet which he uses to fly all around Australia--

Mr Young —At what cost?

Mr PETER MORRIS —I think it was $3,000 an hour. The Queensland taxpayers are bearing that cost. The honourable member is really saying to this Parliament that the money that is being spent by the Queensland Premier, for politicking around Australia, could be redirected to provide the same kind of service to the people of western Queensland? With that, I agree with him.