LOCAL airports are being forced to adhere to strict and expensive security upgrades to remain compliant as part of a Federal Government initiative to enhance security at commercial airports around Australia.
Kennedy MP, Bob Katter said the changes spell the end for carriers such as Rex Airlines and countless regional airports across Queensland as the majority of the owners are local councils who will have no means to foot the diabolical bill estimated to be up to $760,000 a year.
Mr Katter said the measurements fall into the Government’s typical “once size fits all” approach to governing and only imposes further restrictions in the name of national security with the collateral damage being regional towns.
“If these airports close, it will make life utterly intolerable,” Mr Katter warned.
“They have put in requirements stipulating airports that don’t meet a certain quota in passengers a year will not get the security clearance, so it cannot be used as a commercial airport. This decision closes every small-town airport in Australia.”
Rex Airline has received $54 million in Federal subsidies since August as part of the Government’s coronavirus recovery funding and has been able to remain operating with a reduced number of flights in some areas. But the new security changes mean Rex will not be able to land in towns like Cloncurry, Hughenden, Richmond and Karumba unless the security requirements are met.
But the Federal Government has confirmed that there would not be financial support for these measures until June 2021.
“The Federal Government’s proposition to provide financial support in July next year is too little, too late – the airports will be gone by then,” Mr Katter said.
“In North Queensland, we have over 20 airports stretching from Georgetown through to Normanton through the Mid-West towns – Julia Creek, Richmond, Hughenden, Cloncurry and Winton etc – none of these will be able to operate.
“And the people who live in these towns will have to drive between 400km-500km from the Mid-West to get to an airport or upward of 900km to get all the way to the coast.
“Life has been made utterly intolerable for these people. And if you are going down to Brisbane to check if you have cancer, or receive urgent treatment, well so sorry, too bad, you’ll just have to die.
“The tyranny of distance has been reimposed by the Federal LNP four days before election and I have never ever seen such infinite dumbness in all my life.
“What they have done is taken the mantle of safety put there by so many people over generations and ripped it away.”
Mr Katter said he was calling on the State Government to override the feds and regulate the remote market routes to ensure continuity, to save our small towns, keep the airports open and the planes in the sky.
“So all I can say is that we are going to fight this all the way down to Canberra and I think we might have the numbers on this one.
“The Government thinks they are going to finance it in July next year. No way Hosay, the airlines and airports will have closed by then – gone forever – but I will fight like a tiger to keep them open.”