‘Anti-competitive’: Bus company CEO slams flight subsidies
The Federal Government has signed a “death warrant” for Australia’s tour bus industry by subsidising airline tickets to key regional centres, according to the CEO of Greyhound Australia.
Alex de Waal said halving the price of 800,000 flights was “illogical, discriminatory and anti-competitive”.
“Greyhound has survived bruised and battered from COVID and we are taking another hit when Jobkeeper ends at the end of the month,” he said.
“But this is the biggest blow of all and it may not be survivable.
“Price is the main competitive advantage buses have over airlines and the government is wiping it out. There could not be a more lethal dagger aimed at the heart of the industry at the worst possible moment.”
He suggested the government could “at the very least” subsidise regional bus fares.
“Hundreds of regional areas and towns without airports will be cut off from tourism if bus companies go under,” he said.
Greyhound, established in 1928, carried 800,000 people on 420 services to 200 regional destinations in 2019.
Its network covers six of the destinations nominated for government-subsidised plane tickets.
Mr de Waal said the disappearance of bus operators would siphon domestic tourism from hundreds of destinations, including Rockhampton and Longreach.
He said 250 employees were stood down and 150 were made redundant during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We lost 100 per cent of our backpacker customers overnight when borders were closed,” Mr de Waal said.
“COVID did not kill us but the Morrison Government might.”
He said the tour bus sector contributed $2 billion to the Australian economy and employed 10,000 Australians, on average aged 56.
Federal Tourism Minister Dan Tehan did not respond directly to Mr de Waal’s claims of discrimination, but said at a press conference on Friday the purpose of the flight subsidies was to make people more confident about travelling.
“If we do that, people will go to all the destinations across Australia,” he said.
“One of the things that we’ve got to remember in Australia, and it makes it hard when you’re the federal tourism industry, is you cannot support and provide stimulus to every single destination right across Australia.
“And what we’ve seen, especially those destinations three or four hours’ drive from a capital
city, they’ve done incredibly well through the pent-up demand for intrastate travel and this is
about getting interstate travel going.”