May 27, 2014

Truss fails on remote airport funding

Infrastructure Minister Warren Truss has been caught seeking credit for a remote airport upgrade funded by the former Labor Government on the same day it was confirmed he has axed the Remote Airstrip Upgrade Programme from 2015-16.

A joint press statement from the Infrastructure Minister and the Northern Territory Coalition Government today claimed credit for the opening of the new $2.1 million sealed airstrip at Lajamanu in the Northern Territory.


 WARREN TRUSS: The Remote Airstrip Upgrade Programme is enhancing the safety and accessibility of aerodromes in remote areas to help improve connectivity.


Extraordinarily, Mr Truss’ statement came after it was confirmed in Senate estimates that morning that he has axed the Remote Airstrip Upgrade Programme program from 2015-16 leaving remote airports without a single dollar of federal funding.


JOHN DOHERTY, ACTING DEPUTY SECRETARY: The airstrips funding component is funded at this stage only to 2014-15.


The program provides funding to improve the safety of airstrips in remote and isolated communities in Australia, and for services which are not commercially viable but essential for the social and economic well-being of the communities they serve.

The Government’s own Portfolio Budget Statements (p.67) describes the program as ‘vital for the provision of access to essential air services such as the Royal Flying Doctor Service.’

The former Labor Government provided funding for 181 remote airport upgrades projects nationally, investing more than $260 million to build and upgrade regional and remote airports across Australia.

Mr Truss should stop trying to hide behind the achievements of the former Labor Government and explain to remote communities why he is axing funding for this critical program.