Regional air services inquiry needs more of a Tasmanian focus, says senator

Tasmanian Nationals Senator Steve Martin is demanding a parliamentary committee investigating regional air services hold a public hearing in Devonport.

Additionally, Senator Martin has asked the committee chairman Barry O’Sullivan to reopen submissions so Tasmanians can have another say over the differences in airfare prices from certain Tasmanian locations.

He said it was important for the committee to hear of the impact such differences had on local businesses and families.

“From my investigations, it seems people living on the North West Coast of Tasmania are paying more to fly between the state and mainland destinations compared to those flying in and out of Launceston,” Senator Martin said.

“The North West Coast of Tasmania is a region that is recognised as a low social economic area, and the cost of travel via their local regional airports is inequitable and unacceptable.”

King Island Council in a submission to the inquiry said one operator at its airport on an arbitrary day charged $300 for a regular return flight to Victoria and $438 for a return flight to mainland Tasmania.

These were the cheapest fares available for a flight three weeks into the future.

“A return airfare for a family of four to visit Melbourne, our closest capital city, costs over $1000,” the council said. 

Airlines of Tasmania managing director Shannon Wells told the committee earlier this year Par Avion operated a public transport flight from Launceston to Cape Barren Island which was primary funded through the Remote Air Services Subsidy Scheme.

He said the company had to cancel a service to and from Burnie due to ongoing financial loses.

Mr Wells said fuel had tripled in price since the late 1990s and regulations had increased as had compliance costs and new equipment expenses.

He said there had been an increase in costs airlines had to pay for landing, airservices, and security fees.