Though public submissions have closed, the federal Senate has agreed to extend the end date of the airline inquiry to September 20.
More properly called the inquiry into “the operation, regulation and funding of air route service delivery to rural, regional and remote communities”, it has received 122 submissions in the public phase with attention now drawing on where the committee will meet for public hearings.
The committee said previously said there would be two hearings in Queensland with one most likely in Brisbane.
Cloncurry Mayor Greg Campbell has Cloncurry as an ideal location for the senate committee to hold a hearing, though there is no word yet on where it will be held.
There has been a large number of submissions from North West Queensland including one from Hamish Griffin who told the inquiry he had been “very vocal” on the subject.
Mr Griffin said his interest grew after he wanted to take his family to Townsville for a few days last year.
“Return flights to Townsville on a Thursday and back Saturday would have cost $1598 each for my wife and I and our 4 year old son, a total of just under $4800,” Mr Griffin said.
He said he was shocked when he compared that with other Qantas offerings from Sydney on the same day, such as return flights to Los Angeles at $1889 to Los Angeles, $1569 to London, and $480 to Auckland.
“How on earth can it cost less to fly from Sydney to LA return than Cloncurry to Townsville, 800kms away?” he said.
Mr Griffin’s comment was echoed by the submission from the Mount Isa Tourism Association which said there was anecdotal evidence travellers were choosing overseas destinations due to the unpalatable pricing and shortage of flights to the Outback region.
“This loss in tourism opportunities has a negative impact on our economic development, and our growth as a major tourism destination,” the MITA submission said.
Cloncurry resident Haylee Scanlan told the Inquiry she and her husband were committed to seeing their families on the coast when they moved to the North West so their parents could see their grandchildren.
“We have been forced to drive these distances to see our families due to the unrealistic airline prices,” Ms Scanlan said.
“My husband has seen his family twice in the two years we have lived in Cloncurry. This has obviously had a negative impact on our extended family dynamics and also our ability to seek support from extended family.”
Ms Scanlan said communities like Cloncurry struggled to attract families and the high cost of airfares was adding to the problem.
Burke Shire resident Kylie Camp (wife of Mayor Ernie Camp) told the Inquiry about the difficulties boarding kids at school because of high air prices.
“The average cost per child/flight was $640-$750 return. Multiple this by multiple children and you can soon see how this could become quite an expensive exercise over the five years each child would attend school, Ms Camp said.
“This kind of cost negates any ability for the parents to attend any school functions and support their child’s endeavours or, save an emergency, attend if the child is unwell or needs to be told sensitive personal information.”
Ms Camp said they reluctantly decided to put their children on a bus for 22 hours to reach boarding school.