Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack has suggested Victoria only received one destination in the government’s cheap plane ticket financial package because of its snap lockdowns.
“The Victorian government locked down their borders like that,” said the Deputy PM. “At the drop of a hat. Hasty decisions. Locked borders when they had a couple of community outbreaks.”
The comments follow Prime Minister Scott Morrison unveiling the new package of financial help for the aviation industry on Wednesday night that included 800,000 cheap airfares for passengers to 13 tourism destinations including the Gold Coast, Whitsundays and Merimbula.
“I appreciate last July it was difficult when there was that massive outbreak which cost the lives of more than 800 people,” Deputy PM McCormack continued. “I know whatever we think and say about our premiers, they have done what they thought they needed to do to protect the people in their state. But it has come at a big cost.”
His reasoning followings criticism from both the NSW and Victorian premiers for both states receiving just one destination each, compared with Queensland’s five.
“That is frustrating,” NSW’s Gladys Berejiklian told 2GB this morning. “Especially because I think the tourism problems in Queensland are completely self-inflicted.”
Victorian acting Premier James Merlino echoed her views, “It’s like they are looking at the Melbourne and Sydney markets and using them as the source for markets across the rest of the country. It is not fair, and we are disappointed.
“You only have to look at the numbers. Five in Queensland, three in Tassie, two in the Northern Territory, just one in Victoria. This is not a great outcome for tourism operators, other than those who will be serviced by flights to Avalon.”
At present, the deal, designed to replace JobKeeper for the aviation and tourism industries, only applies to 13 destinations, though the government has hinted this could be expanded.
The current list is the Gold Coast, Cairns, the Whitsundays and Mackay region (Proserpine and Hamilton Island), the Sunshine Coast, Lasseter and Alice Springs, Launceston, Devonport and Burnie, Broome, Avalon, Merimbula and Kangaroo Island.
So far, the initiative has received mixed reviews from the both tourism and aviation groups.
Australian Tourism Industry Council expressed “deep disappointment” at the package, which it said risked job losses in cities and regions.
“ATIC supports sustainable Australian aviation,” said executive director Simon Westaway. “But stimulus cannot be at the expense of small tourism operators, when this air network support is not easily transferable nor truly nationwide.”
Their anger was shared by a conglomerate of eight unions, which wrote a letter to the prime minister expressing their “utter dismay” at the deal.
However, industry groups representing airports, national airlines and regional aviation – Airlines for Australia and New Zealand (A4ANZ), Australian Airports Association (AAA) and Regional Aviation Association of Australia (RAAA) – have all backed the plan.
AAA chief executive James Goodwin said, “Anything that can fill seats and put more aircraft in the sky is a good thing and will have flow-on effects for the airport sector.
“It’s been just over a year since COVID-19 hit and during this time, all airports have been doing it extremely tough. They’ve been in major need of support and are grateful the federal government has listened to their calls with this new package.”