Member for the Mining and Pastoral Region Dave Grills MLC has thrown his support behind calls for an inquiry into regional airfares in Western Australia.
This follows recent requests by local governments in the Pilbara and the Goldfields for an inquiry into the relatively high cost of air travel to the State’s resource-rich regions.
Mr Grills said airfares in regional WA were among the highest in the country and were an ongoing concern for communities in regions such as the Pilbara, Goldfields and Kimberley.
“Local governments across the Mining and Pastoral Region are calling for an investigation into the factors driving high airfares for regional customers, particularly on those routes with high levels of resource industry-related traffic,” Mr Grills said.
Speaking in State Parliament last Thursday, Mr Grills pointed to statistics provided by the Pilbara Regional Council showing the high cost of travel on Goldfields and Pilbara routes when measured in cost per kilometer.
“According to data released by the Pilbara Regional Council in January this year, the average return fare to Kalgoorlie-Boulder for one particular carrier was $606, or 55 cents per kilometre of travel. The figure was more than three times the cost to travel from Perth to Melbourne at 16 cents per kilometre while a return Perth to London flight cost 7 cents per kilometer,” Mr Grills said.
“Newman at 39 cents per kilometre, Paraburdoo at 38 cents per kilometre, Port Hedland at 36 cents per kilometre and Karratha at 29 cents per kilometre rounded out the top five most expensive flights per kilometre in Western Australia, according to the Pilbara Regional Council statistics.”
Mr Grills agreed with the Pilbara Regional Council’s assertion that the inequitable discrepancy in airfares to Pilbara and Goldfields destinations was likely due to the widespread use of fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) workers along these routes.
The Pilbara Regional Council has stated that FIFO workforces are having a distorting effect on the market, with resource companies able to derive a tax incentive from the FIFO staffing model under current Commonwealth arrangements.
“Resource companies may be able to accept higher premiums for regular flights to fly workers in and out but these higher airfares inevitably price out ordinary residents, tourists and small business operators,” Mr Grills said.
“I know that many locals in Kalgoorlie-Boulder, for example, wonder why they have to pay some of the highest airfares per kilometre in the State, even though the city is serviced by two major airlines and should be a competitive route in theory.”
Mr Grills said a review was needed to examine these factors in more detail and would assist government, airlines, business and communities in developing a comprehensive and coordinated response to address the issue.
Nationals WA Candidate for the Kimberley Rob Houston said the high cost of air travel was also a major issue in Broome and the Kimberley region.
“I recently travelled to New South Wales for business and had to pay around $1,500 for a return flight from Broome. It would cost me roughly the same amount to book a return flight from London,” Mr Houston said.
“Such high prices are deterring visitors to the Kimberley and this undoubtedly has a negative impact on the local economy and tourism sector, while also preventing family members and friends from visiting and local residents from travelling.”
Mr Houston said he hoped an inquiry would examine airfares in the Kimberley as well as other regions.
“The provision of affordable aviation services to support Western Australia’s economic and social development has been outlined as a key objective in the State Aviation Strategy and I support these calls for an inquiry into regional airfares,” he said.
For media enquiries contact Dave Grills MLC on (08) 9071 500 or email email@example.com