I noticed that Air North have announced some new route they will be flying from Darwin to Alice Springs. This is very good. I also noticed that this has been supported and subsidised by the government. Last year I appealed to the Chief Minister to support remote communities in accessing cheaper travel. Can you tell me what the government are doing to support and subsidise the existing air routes to remote communities , , , , and other communities.

ANSWER

It is important that people from communities have access to air services out there. We do know that particularly in the north of the Northern Territory it does present some real challenges when the wet season and the monsoon kick in, and with access to certain communities. Because we still have the issue with roads and trying to get as much sealed as possible to communities more accessible year round.

There is going to be a body of work happening at a federal level looking at the subject of regional air services, which of course will look at places like remote communities and level of services that do go out there.

That is going to be a very important body of work and I would urge you to make a submission—but I am sure you have already done that—with regards to how airline services can service Territorians better going out there across the Northern Territory.

We did invest in extending the centre run, which is the run that goes from Darwin, Katherine, Tennant Creek, Alice Springs and back, because that is something we need as well. It is an important service and that is one thing that I will thank the previous government for where they got that trial up and running. And we have continued that as well, to see if we can see some commercial operation happening there. Because it is an important service.

But what is so fantastic about this dry season is that that is going to extend from three days a week to five. That is going to test some of those commercial opportunities there, about making it a more viable and sustainable route for Territorians to travel on in getting up and down the track.

Looking at regional transport, it is an important area to look at those accessibility issues. Getting out to community. I know it is a tough cost of living pressure if people have only air transport to use. It is something I would be keen to discuss with you further Member for Nhulunbuy and happy to have a bit of a conversation so I can understand the needs of your constituents a bit better.

In the meantime we have managed to make sure that we invest in airstrips as well because that is very important infrastructure. I know Milingimbi, that has been an issue there and we have put significant funds into it through the budge to look at the widening and the issues there with the airstrip.

We would be more than happy to sit down with you, Member for Nhulunbuy, to understand some of those transport and accessibility issues. But again, I think it is going to be a really important body of work that we see through those questions that the senate committee look at with regards to remote and regional air services. And looking forward to seeing what comes out of that and where there are more gaps that need to be filled in ways in which we can ensure that there is more sustainable and cost-effective airfares for people who live out bush.

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