MP slams airport terminal ‘barriers’

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Terry Redman has tackled Busselton Airport in Parliament.
Camera IconTerry Redman has tackled Busselton Airport in Parliament. Credit: The West Australian

Warren-Blackwood MLA Terry Redman has upped the stakes in his fight to force Labor to build a pledged passenger terminal at Busselton Airport.

Following recent Freedom of Information Act inquiries, last week in Parliament Mr Redman pressed the WA Government on its broken promises as well as contradictory advice from the South West Development Commission.

“Not only is the Government absent in the space of supporting the Busselton-Margaret River Airport, but also there is enough evidence ... to demonstrate that it actually has its foot on the hose and is making every endeavour to put barriers in the way of progressing tourism opportunities, and by extension, jobs, in the South West,” he said last Wednesday.

The Nationals MP was supporting operators who believed the terminal was needed for Jetstar’s interstate flights from Melbourne, which start in March.

But his inquiries showed the financial assistance agreement was changed to make the terminal a commitment only if the incoming airline said it was needed.

Mr Redman said changes to the Government’s FAA with the City of Busselton, and correspondence between redacted sources at the SWDC, showed key players wanted the terminal — until they later said they didn’t.

An email from the SWDC in May showed support for the terminal, and then an about-face in June.

Mr Redman told the Times Labor had to declare whether calling the Jetstar flights a “trial” was due to the SWDC’s June memo which mapped out reasons not to build the terminal until the air route proved viable.

Mr Redman said it showed the SWDC “actively working against funding the terminal irrespective of (its) own agency recommending to fund it”.The SWDC declined to say if its correspondence came from chairman Nick Belyea, who has extensive aviation industry experience.

Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan declined to clarify the origins of the term.

But the minister said Mr Belyea was “central to negotiations between Jetstar and the City of Busselton and has provided important, fact-based opinions to the State Government on this issue”.

She told the Times Labor had delivered the flights where previous governments couldn’t — “and tickets are running out the door”.

The Government had spent $43.25 million on the airport and airline attraction, and pledged a further $3.265 million to upgrade landing facilities ahead of Jetstar’s operations — all agreed by Jetstar and the City, Ms MacTiernan said.

“Jetstar made it very clear to our Government before the deal was finalised that a new terminal was not required,” she said.

“No other airline was prepared to commit to the route. There is no business case that can be made for a new terminal at this time.”

“We need to be clear that this service is a three-year agreement and has a generous subsidy built in: at the end of the period, Jetstar and the City of Busselton will decide if the flights are financially viable.”

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