The Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport committee inquiry into the future of Australia’s aviation sector, in the context of COVID-19 and conditions post pandemic, made an interim report on 18 March 2021.
The interim report was a rational examination of the crisis facing aviation globally and more specifically in Australia. The Federal Government had acted on some of the recommendations prior to the interim report being tabled.
The final reporting date was extended three times to allow for a more thorough examination of the industry-wide challenges facing Australian aviation from general aviation through to the airline sector, including pilots, engineers, cabin crew and ground crew.
There are challenges with a shortage of pilot and engineer training businesses, reduced general aviation access to many airports, regulation, interest from young people entering the industry, and business confidence generally, following two years of international and domestic border closures.
Recommendation 8 in the final report reflects the work of Coalition senators in aviation roundtables to specifically address training and the cost of certification. These Roundtables were carried out to address identified gaps in the broader aviation ecosystem.
It remains the case that the near- and medium-term demand for air travel is an unknown quantity.
It is disappointing that the final report tabled largely fails to address the Terms of Reference of the Inquiry.
In addition, the draft contains a notable number of unfounded assertions and inappropriate emotive terminology. It lacks detailed scrutiny of testimony.
It appears that the extensions of time have been made to extend the industrial relations dispute between the relevant unions with one airline in particular, that being Qantas.
Rather than using appropriate forums, such as the courts and Fair Work Commission, to prosecute these industrial relations disputes, the Senate has been used to promote the agenda of one group of submitters to the Inquiry, primarily Unions. This is not the purpose of the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport committee, and the opportunity to properly examine the genuine issues that would see aviation fly again has been wasted.
The Coalition members have been patient in providing quorum for these hearings and continue to hear evidence in good faith, but cannot support the recommendations of this report.