Legislative Council: Tuesday, May 02, 2023


Regional Air Services

The Hon. J.S. LEE (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) (14:53): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking a question of the Minister for Regional Development about regional services.

Leave granted.

The Hon. J.S. LEE: Two weeks ago, Rex Airlines announced that they will be cutting or shifting flight routes across regional South Australia. Many of the regional mayors and regional community members have expressed their concern about the announcement, indicating that this could affect access to medical doctors and other frontline professional staff in regional South Australia. My questions to the minister are:

1. As Minister for Regional Development, has she contacted the airline to advocate for this service to continue?

2. What measures has the state government put in place to help address the lack of airline services impacting on our regions?

3. Will the Malinauskas government commit to a social and economic review to restore the important airline service for our regional community?

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Mr Wortley, the question wasn't directed to you.

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (14:54): I thank the honourable member for her recent and new interest in regional matters. Great to see! In answer to the question—

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Yes, I am trying to hear. Order! You have thrown the bait, the bait has been taken. I can't hear anything, so let's continue in silence please.

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: In answer to the question, I am certainly very aware, very conscious of the difficulties that are being caused in regional areas by the cuts to the flights. Living in a regional area myself, I am directly affected and have certainly experienced difficulties in recent weeks and, indeed, months. But more importantly than that, others have experienced difficulties, for example, when they are attending medical appointments in Adelaide. It has impacted on tourism, it has impacted on many various matters where regional air transport is so important and so crucial to those who live in regional areas across our state.

I have written to Rex Airlines pointing out the difficulties, also acknowledging, however, what they have said publicly in regard to the reasons for this, and they are specifically shortages of pilots, shortages of engineers and supply chain issues for, essentially, parts that are essential for maintenance and safety. I do appreciate that safety must come first and I am sure everyone in this parliament would agree that when it comes to safety, there can't be any suggestion of any shortcuts.

The pilot shortage is certainly an issue that I think probably most members would be aware is an industry-wide issue. It's something that is affecting airlines domestically and, indeed, I am advised, internationally. It's very important that Rex continues to address this in terms of the pilot shortage, of course. Members may be aware that Rex runs their own training academy and cadet program, and I am advised by them that they are continuing to invest heavily in that training program.

I think it's incredibly important that there is as much communication as possible. My understanding is that at the moment Rex Airlines has indicated that the changes to routes—the reduction in services—will continue through until October this year and, of course, they are continually reassessing it. Their approach was rather than to cut, for example, one entire route that could have met their operational needs, instead to reduce each route to the least extent possible.

That's certainly the information that's coming back to me from Rex Airlines. But I will continue to see this and, of course, look at how we can ensure that any changes are communicated in the best way possible. That's Rex's responsibility, but I think it's also something that a number of us share through other mechanisms as well.