Coalition calls for consumer watchdog to recommence monitoring airfares

An aerial view of Kingsford Smith Airport in Sydney.
Edited by Travel Weekly

    The Liberal-Nationals Coalition has introduced a Private Senator’s Bill that would restore oversight of the domestic aviation market by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

    Introduced by the shadow minister for transport, Bridget McKenzie, and the shadow assistant minister for competition, Dean Smith, the bill aims to track prices, costs and profits relating to the supply of domestic air passenger transport services, and of related goods and services, for three years.

    In its proposition, the Coalition site that the aviation sector remains one of the most concentrated in the Australian economy, with the Qantas and Virgin Australia duopoly controlling 95 per cent of the domestic market.

    Meanwhile, recent dealings between the Albanese Government and Qantas regarding the blocking of additional Qatar Airways flights into Australia have reignited concerns about sector competition and transparency.

    The Coalition is calling on the ACCC to publish a report of its findings at least once every quarter.

    This Bill replicates the monitoring regime begun under the previous Coalition Government, which ran from June 2020 to June 2023.

    In its final report in June, the ACCC found that “a lack of effective competition is a key reason why the industry has generally underperformed in terms of meeting the needs of both the travelling public and the parts of the economy that rely on domestic air travel.” However, the Albanese Government chose not to continue the monitoring.

    Senator Smith said Labor’s decision ignored advice from the ACCC that sector oversight should continue.

    “The watchdog clearly said that ongoing monitoring would boost transparency and scrutiny of an industry in which new or growing airlines are trying to get established,” he said.

    “This is totally at odds with the Albanese Government’s supposed commitment to both transparency and making life cheaper for Australians.”

    Shadow Minister for Transport, Senator Bridget McKenzie said the Albanese Government is running a protection racket for Qantas, which has been highlighted by the Government’s recent decision to block Qatar Airways’ request for additional flights.

    “After the monitoring ended, I wrote to the Treasurer asking him to instruct the ACCC to investigate airline competition and pricing, and provide recommendations to government and industry to improve the competitiveness of airfares and enhance service reliability,” Senator McKenzie said.

    “And if he won’t act on this, we will.”

    “This is what this Bill is all about.”

    “The Prime Minister and his ministers have provided 9, often conflicting, reasons as to why they blocked Qatar Airways’ request.”

    “The question remains, why don’t the Albanese Government want to provide cheaper airfares for the travelling public in a cost-of-living crisis?”

    The original ACCC monitoring of aviation ran for three years up until June 2023.

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