The Coalition has released an aviation policy that aims to wrest the industry back from what it sees as years of disengagement by the incumbent government, a development that has been roundly welcomed by the aviation industry.
In a statement released by shadow transport minister Warren Truss, who has been engaging with selected industry peak bodies, said: “The coalition’s policy for aviation will improve consultation, reform the structure of key safety agencies and provide support to struggling sectors of the industry.”
Headlining the policy is the investment of “an additional $3.5 million to support regional aviation by introducing a new and better targeted En Route Rebate Scheme for regional commercial airline carriers to support low volume and new routes to small and remote communities.” The regional sector has been seeking reinstatement of the scheme for the scheme to prop up loss-making services to remote areas.
Truss has agreed with the current government’s intention to conduct an external review of aviation safety, but has added the whole regulatory gambit to a review. Truss said he would conduct a “root and branch assessment of current practices and provide a long-term framework for the future of aviation safety regulation in Australia.”
The optimisation of airspace also falls into the policy, tasking Airservices with fast-tracking technological and navigational improvements at airports. Alongside increasing capacity, the policy will also seek methods to decrease aircraft noise for communities – a perennial political football.
Cost-effectiveness also features in the policy, Truss saying: “Over the past six years Labor’s approach to aviation policy has seen cost after cost added to the bottom lines of airlines and airports, pilots and passengers. Labor has introduced the carbon tax, increased red tape, raised the Passenger Movement Charge and abolished the En Route Rebate Scheme for small regional airlines.”
Furthermore, Truss has publicly recognised the contribution the aviation sector makes to the economy – employing in excess of 100,000 people and contributing an estimated $17.3 billion to the Australian economy.
“The Coalition’s Policy for Aviation will invest $6 million to boost the productivity, safety and competitiveness of our aviation sector,” he said.
Other promises include:
- Revitalising the General Aviation Action Agenda and establishing a regular dialogue with the general aviation sector to address industry issues;
- Continue to promote aviation liberalisation while recognising the need to protect our national interest;
- Enhance aviation skills, training and development by undertaking a study into skills shortages in the broader aviation industry; and
- Ensuring aviation security measures are risk-based and implemented in a practical and common sense way.
Although without a direct policy on airports, Truss said he “recognises the importance of Australian airports to the economy, from our major gateway airports and small regional airports, to those that support flight training and general aviation”
However, Australian Airports Association (AAA) CEO Caroline Wilkie welcomed that recognition, saying she sees this as a positive indication of Truss’s engagement with industry.
“The AAA welcomes the Coalition’s commitment to establish a formal consultation process with the aviation industry.
“The proposal for an external review of aviation safety and regulation – modelled on the Wheeler Review – into aviation security is a positive proposal, particularly given the impact of escalating security costs on regional airport operators for whom regulatory costs are now more than 12 per cent of their total operating costs. The Coalition’s approach to a risk-based approach to aviation security is also welcomed,” Wilkie said.
Meanwhile long-time advocate of more engagement between the regional sector and government, Paul Tyrrell, CEO of the Regional Aviation Association of Australia (RAAA) said: “The reaction to the coalition’s new aviation policy has been generally positive across the regional aviation industry. The establishment of a Ministerial Aviation Council, the industry wide review of safety and regulation and the re-establishment of the enroute rebate scheme is particularly heartening.
“However, the industry looks forward to the appointment of an aviation minister in any new government, who will focus on and champion our industry in parliament and to the world.”
While there is nothing revolutionary or new in the coalition’s policies, they represent a platform for government to re-engage with the aviation sector, something the industry has been crying our for over many recent years.