A feeling of disappointment, verging on anger, was felt by many stakeholders in Mildura when the federal government announced its $1.2 billion, cut-price flight scheme to support the tourism sector last week, which excluded many destinations in Australia, including regional Victoria.
Since making the initial announcement, the government moved to add some other cities including Darwin and Adelaide, but has so far failed to broaden the list to include airports like Mildura and Bendigo.
Member for Mallee Anne Webster said shared the disappointment of everyone in Mildura and said she hoped it would be included soon.
“It goes without saying that I too am very disappointed – I come from here,” she said.
“This initial roll-out is specifically about international destinations that have obviously been hit very hard – but we have been hit hard as well and we need support.
“I think the scheme also needs to be tweaked to give support for some of our smaller travel agents in Mildura and across the Mallee.”
Mildura Mayor Jason Modica was joined by Mildura Airport CEO Trevor Willcock and Mildura Regional Development (MRD) CEO Brett Millington when the group met earlier this week to express their collective disappointment at the government’s oversight.
“We are all obviously disappointed, at the same time we are pleased to see the government send a signal that they are providing more stimulus for the tourism sector and so we will be putting some pressure on to have Mildura included on that list,” Councillor Modica said.
“Easter in Mildura is absolutely phenomenal and we tap into the assets that we’ve got and we are standing here at the airport it’s 25 degrees and a glorious sunny day, why wouldn’t you want to bring people here.”
Mr Willcock said that it has been a struggle to attract people back to the region and so every incentive that can be introduced will be a positive step.
“We have been struggling to get people to travel to Mildura and Australia needs to get the aviation sector back up and running and this is something we were really looking forward to and unfortunately Mildura wasn’t included on the list,” he said.
“Surely Mildura will be one of those regions to be included if there is an extension of the program, after all we are a big tourist destination.”
Mr Millington agreed with Mr Willcock and said that part of raising their concerns with the issue, is to ensure that if there is a second round of the scheme announced, Mildura will be part of it.
“It has a double-whammy affect for us. Not only aren’t we on the list, it means that people who may otherwise have considered travelling to Mildura, may choose to go to other destinations because of the cheaper flights available,” he said.
Victoria’s Tourism Minister Martin Pakula has written to his federal counterpart calling for more areas to be included in the package.
“This is about the Commonwealth really treating Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide as nothing but cash cows for other parts of the country and that’s just not reasonable,” Minister Pakula said. “The Commonwealth could say to Australians, there are 800,000 half-price flights available, they’re available to any part of the country.”
Transport Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, while defending the scheme, added that it was an initial list.
“Not every destination is on the list. Again, I state, it is an initial list and so we’ll revisit it,” he said.