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Coalition Government Boosts Aviation Funding

Australian Coat of Arms

MEDIA RELEASE
The Hon John Anderson MP
Deputy Prime Minister
Leader of The Nationals
Minister for Transport and Regional Services

TRS10/Budget 11 May 2004

The Government will spend an additional $58.3 million over the next four years ($20.5 million in 2004-05) to maintain air services to remote communities and increase aviation safety, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Transport and Regional Services, John Anderson, said today.

Remote Air Services Subsidy Scheme

Mr Anderson said the Government would spend an additional $7.7 million over the next four years ($1.5 million in 2004-05) to maintain air services to isolated and remote communities under the Remote Air Services Subsidy Scheme (RASS).

The Government will spend a total of $3.3 million on the scheme in 2004-05.

"The scheme subsidises air operators that fly thousands of kilometres a week, to deliver services to about 250 remote and isolated communities in the Northern Territory, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and Cape Barren Island in Bass Strait," Mr Anderson said.

"The communities include indigenous and other isolated communities where regular commercial air services are not viable. Their road access can be cut for weeks at a time during the wet season. The RASS operators carry passengers, educational materials, medicines, fresh food and other urgent supplies.

"The additional funding will enable RASS services to continue to all of the communities that are currently in the scheme and will enable us to start extra services to new applicants," he said.

Expanded and improved aviation safety investigation

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) will receive an extra $14.4 million over the next four years - $2.5 million in 2004-05 - to increase its ability to carry out air safety investigations and analyse safety trends in the industry.

"The funding will enable the ATSB to increase the number and scope of the independent safety investigations it conducts each year. Over time, the measure will increase the safety of our skies as the ATSB's recommendations are implemented," Mr Anderson said.

"The ATSB categorises more than 5,000 aviation safety occurrences in its database each year and investigates the ones that are more serious and where new safety lessons can be learned. The number of new aviation safety investigations each year is expected to increase from about 60 in 2003-04 to as many as 100 in 2004-05 and beyond," he said.

The funding will also enable the ATSB to replace its old and cumbersome OASIS aviation occurrence and investigation database system.

The new IT system is expected to be operational by December 2006 and will provide a modern platform for ATSB investigations and safety analysis, improve Australia's exchange of data with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), and improve the quality of the safety data available to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) and other industry organisations.

Maintaining CASA's ability to protect aviation safety

"The Government is absolutely determined to maintain Australia's high aviation safety standards. We have overhauled the Civil Aviation Safety Authority's governance arrangements, enforcement powers, and imposed new measures to make sure it acts with procedural fairness," Mr Anderson said.

"We will provide the Civil Aviation Safety Authority with an extra $29.2 million over four years ($9.7 million in 2004-05) to make sure it has every dollar it needs to protect the lives of the millions of Australians who travel by air each year.

"$26.0 million of the cost of the measure will be met by retaining, at its current level, the supplementary increase in the aviation fuel duties that was imposed in 2003-04.

"The Government will also allow CASA to increase its regulatory fees and charges for the first time since it was established in 1995. Its fees and charges have not increased to take inflation into account, so they have fallen steadily behind in real terms. CASA will consult with the industry about the increase, which will take effect on 1 July 2004.

Extending the Location Specific Pricing subsidy

"The Government will spend an additional $7.0 million in 2004-05 to continue the location specific pricing subsidy, which enables Airservices Australia to provide affordable air traffic control services at 14 regional and general aviation airports.

"The Government will continue to subsidise tower services at Albury, Coffs Harbour, Launceston, Mackay, Maroochydore, Rockhampton, Tamworth, Archerfield, Bankstown, Camden, Jandakot, Moorabin, Parafield and Essendon.

"Since 1998, tower charges at these airports have been capped at $7.42 per tonne (GST inclusive). They have also fallen behind in real terms. Accordingly, the Government has decided to allow Airservices Australia to increase its charges at these airports in line with inflation over the past six years to a maximum of $8.67 per tonne (GST inclusive). Airservices will also apply this price cap to tower services at Hobart, Cairns, Coolangatta and Canberra Airports.

"Any price increase proposed by Airservices will be subject to consultation with the industry and scrutiny by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

"The retention of the subsidy in 2004-05 will allow Airservices to focus on developing a longer-term approach to pricing in consultation with the industry and the ACCC during the year. The strategy will recognise the interests of the aviation operators and travellers who use our regional and general aviation airports," Mr Anderson said.

Media contacts:

Paul Chamberlain Deputy Prime Minister's office 02 62777680 / 0419 233989