SENATOR THE HON BRIDGET MCKENZIE
SHADOW MINISTER FOR INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT
LEADER OF THE NATIONALS IN THE SENATE
SENATOR FOR VICTORIA
SENATOR DEAN SMITH
SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR COMPETITION, CHARITIES AND TREASURY
SENATOR FOR WESTERN AUSTRALIA
27 October 2023
AUSTRALIAN TRAVELLERS LEFT EXPOSED AS LABOR STALLS ON AIRLINE MONITORING PROMISE
So far, the only completed stage of the Albanese Government’s commitment to re-instate ACCC airline monitoring is its media release.
During Budget Estimates on Wednesday night, Treasury officials and Finance Minister Katy Gallagher revealed the Treasurer is yet to direct the ACCC to begin the monitoring, advising the direction is “still being worked up”.
In contrast, ACCC Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb told the same hearing that the ACCC had maintained capacity to run the monitoring and could “pick up where we left off right away.”
The Albanese Labor Government backflipped on its refusal to re-commence the monitoring last week under pressure from the Coalition, including a Private Senators Bill introduced by Senators Bridget McKenzie and Dean Smith.
Senator Smith said Labor’s slow performance, failure to provide answers on how the new monitoring would be funded, or if it would be backdated to 30 June – when the previous ACCC monitoring regime, introduced under the Coalition in 2020, ended – is unacceptable.
“This monitoring is essential to delivering greater competition and transparency, and Labor’s delays leave air travellers exposed as the busy Christmas period approaches,” Senator Smith said.
Senator McKenzie said the evidence provided by Treasury officials shows the Government is more interested in blocking a Senate inquiry from asking questions to former Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce than it is in keeping airfares down for Australian families and business.
“Treasurer Jim Chalmers first asked Treasury to consider reinstating ACCC monitoring on 7 September when Labor were hoping to scuttle the Senate inquiry into Minister King’s protection of Qantas from competition, and again on 12 October in advance of a Senate vote on extending the Senate inquiry to hear from Alan Joyce on his return to Australia,” Senator McKenzie said.
Ms Cass-Gottlieb also confirmed the ACCC was able to monitor the sector from 30 June, with no need for any gap.
“It’s bad enough that Labor allowed this monitoring to lapse in the first place, but now it must make good on its error and issue the direction immediately – and ensure the monitoring covers the last four months,” Senator Smith said.
“The ACCC is on record that it can proceed today and there is no excuse why the Albanese Government should not do the same.
“The ACCC monitoring needs to recommence immediately, with the Qantas group, including Jetstar, inconveniencing tens of thousands of Australians in September by cancelling more than 1,000 flights and a further 7,084 flights delayed by more than 15 minutes, Senator McKenzie said.
“The fact flight cancellations and delays remain at excessive levels show the Albanese Government is not willing to tackle Qantas to fix the problems in the aviation sector.”
“Until the Government issues a direction to the ACCC to reinstate airline monitoring, the Coalition will continue to push for its Private Senators’ Bill to be voted on by the Senate,”
ACCC Airline Monitoring Timeline
5 June 2023 ACCC delivers final airline competition monitoring report.
5 September 2023 Senate votes to establish Senate Select Committee aviation inquiry.
6 September 2023 Labor tabled motion to hobble Senate aviation inquiry.
12 September 2023 Senators McKenzie and Smith introduce Bill in Senate to re-establish ACCC airline monitoring powers.
7 September 2023 Treasurer Chalmers asks The Treasury to consider re-establishing ACCC monitoring of airlines.
7 September 2023 Labor offer Senator Pocock a ‘deal’ to restore ACCC monitoring of airlines for his vote to hobble Senate aviation inquiry.
7 September 2023 Senate defeats Labor attempt to hobble aviation inquiry. Labor take no action on restoring ACCC airline monitoring power.
9 October 2023 Senate aviation inquiry report tabled. Recommends re-establishing inquiry to compel Mr Alan Joyce and Qantas employees to appear and give evidence.
12 October 2023 Treasurer Jim Chalmers asks The Treasury for draft letter to Prime Minister and media release on re-establishing ACCC airline monitoring power.
14 October 2023 Voice Referendum.
18 October 2023 Labor offer Senator Pocock a ‘deal’ to restore ACCC airline monitoring for his vote to prevent re-establishment of Senate inquiry that would call Mr Alan Joyce and Qantas employees.
18 October 2023 Senate rejects motion to re-establish Senate aviation inquiry, meaning Alan Joyce will not have to give evidence to Senate Committee.
18 October 2023 Labor announce the re-establishment of ACCC airline monitoring powers.
25 October 2023 Treasury officials disclose no direction has been issued to the ACCC to restore airline monitoring powers.