About $8 million will be spent in 2015/16 on international passenger processing facilities at Townsville and Sunshine Coast airports, the budget papers show.
Immigration and Border Protection Minister Peter Dutton said both airports will be able to offer ongoing international services as part of the funding package announced in Tuesday night’s budget.
Townsville Airport was granted international status in February, following an in-principle agreement of the National Passenger Processing Committee to facilitate international services out of the North Queensland city.
The government was also establishing ongoing border facilities at Sunshine Coast Airport – which has had seasonal service to New Zealand since 2012 – to enable regular international travel.
“The Government will provide $26.2 million (including $6.9 million in capital funding) over four years from 2015-16 to establish permanent border clearance services at Townsville and Sunshine Coast airports to support regular international air services,” the 2015/16 budget released on Tuesday evening said.
In 2015/16, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection is spending $6.9 million, while the Department of Agriculture is spending $0.8 million on Sunshine Coast and Townsville Airport’s international passenger processing facilities. The figures include capital spending.
Dutton said that the funding would be directed towards customs, immigration and quarantine functions, aircraft clearance and counter-terrorism measures to manage the border protection and biosecurity risks at the two airports.
“We have set up a model within the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service – soon to be the Australian Border Force – which provides for the flexible deployment of trained officers to airports as the need arises,” Dutton said in a statement on Tuesday.
Dutton said border agency officials would work with the airport and airlines to ensure appropriate resourcing of biosecurity and border clearance staff. Moreover, the resources would be aligned with the proposed flight schedules of international airlines.
Air New Zealand offers seasonal service using Airbus A320s between Sunshine Coast and Auckland, which in previous years operated during the winter months but will be expanded this year to include a new summer schedule between December and February.
And Townsville Airport secured its first international route in April when Jetstar launched three times a week service to Bali (Denpasar) with Airbus A320s scheduled to take off from September 2.
Jetstar chief executive for Australia and New Zealand David Hall told the Townsville Bulletin at the time the new flights would not have been viable without a cost-effective customs and security solution.
Townsville Airport has had international flights in the past, most recently with the now defunct Strategic Airlines flying to Denpasar.
Separately, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection announced visa application charges would increase across a range of categories from July 1, with the measure to raise $103.4 million in 2015/16 and $437.1 million over the next four years.
The cost of a visitor visa is going up $5 to $135 (if processed overseas) or $340 (if processed in Australia).
The biggest hike in visa fees is in the Significant Investor Visa category, which will jump 50 per cent to $7,010.
The Department said the visa application fee for this category comprised a “very small component of the minimum $5 million of investments required under the significant investor visa category.
There were no changes for electronic travel authorities (ETA), eVisa and refugee and humanitarian visas, the Department said.
Those applying for Australian citizenship are also set to pay more for the privilege, with the government moving to “full cost recovery” of citizenship costs.
The budget said moving to full cost recovery was “consistent with the Australian government cost recovery guidelines and is underpinned by the principle that cost recovery promotes equity where the recipients of a government service, rather than the general public, bears its costs”.
The budget papers showed the department was projected to spend $117 million in 2015/16 on citizenship programs, including testing, interpreter services and “promoting the value of Australian citizenship.
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