Australia is expected to spend $90 million on the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) is forecast to spend $60 million on the search for the Boeing 777-200 aircraft over this year and next, the federal budget papers handed down on Tuesday night show.
The ATSB was expected to spend $10.4 million up to June 30 this year and a further $49.6 million in the 12 months to June 30, 2015, on the sub-surface search for the black box flight recorders and wreckage.
“The actual cost will depend on a number of factors, including the outcome of procurement processes for specialist services, the length of the search, and the extent of contributions from other countries,” the budget papers said.
Efforts to find MH370, which disappeared on March 8, have focused on area spanning some 60,000 square kilometres in the Indian Ocean.
Including defence and other costs, such as the establishment of the Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC), the federal government expected to contribute provide $89.9 million over two years from 2013-14 as part of the international search effort.
Were it not for the search for MH370, the ATSB’s expenses would have fallen after it implemented a “significant workforce downsizing program” designed to ensure the agency operated on a financially stable footing.
Staff numbers at the ATSB were expected to fall 11 per cent in 2014-15 to 98, from 110 the prior year, the budget papers said.
Meanwhile, Australia’s aviation safety regulator will also reduce staff in the year ahead as part of a “management initiated structural change program”.
“The completion of the structural change programme, increasing CASA’s focus on the delivery of its core regulatory services, is forecast to result in a reduction of staff from 855 to 833 over the year,” the budget papers said.
And while the government has reintroduced indexation of the fuel excise, the measure will not apply to aviation fuel.
Currently, Australia’s domestic airlines pay a 3.556-cents-per-litre excise for aviation fuel, which goes to CASA.
The amount of aviation fuel excise collected in 2013-14 was likely to come in lower than expected at $121.5 million, compared with a forecast $125.6 million, and CASA was forecasting flat growth in 2014-15 before a recovery during 2015-16.