Regional airfare probe conclusions shot down

Tom Zaunmayr and Sophie MoorePilbara News
VideoQantas is trialling special discounts on airfares for residents in six regional towns impacted by the resources industry.

Passengers can expect to keep paying sky-high prices to fly to WA towns after the State’s tourism minister revealed an inquiry into regional airfares had failed to come up with any solutions.

Paul Papalia said recommendations by the parliamentary inquiry which released its final report in November, were not “earth-shattering”.

“They did not provide a solution to the fundamental problem of dropping the prices to some of our regional destinations,” he said on Wednesday at an industry launch of a new tourism scheme.

The Government wanted to attract a low-cost airline to the State, he said.

The inquiry was a key plank in WA Labor’s election campaign to lure regional voters.

Pilbara Regional Council chief executive Tony Friday said the inquiry had at least highlighted how important the issue was to regional WA.

“While it hasn’t generated the answers, what it should have generated is the impetus at all levels of government to find the answers,” he said.

“The solutions will need to be locally driven but supported by States and, if necessary, underpinned by Federal regulatory intervention.”

Mr Friday said Pilbara local governments had taken the lead in finding solutions, such as Aviair’s interconnected flights proposal.

“At the moment it makes economic sense for people in Newman and Tom Price to access medical services in Perth,” he said.

“Once you have an intraregional air service you have a broader access to medical services in the region.

“You can then go back to the health department and say ‘we can save you money by putting these specialist services into the Karratha Health Campus’.”

He said he would like to see the State Government match local government funding for the trial.

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