Labor has been forced by Coalition pressure, including a Private Senators Bill introduced by Senators Bridget McKenzie and Dean Smith, to reintroduce ACCC monitoring of the domestic aviation sector.
Late on Wednesday night, at a time carefully selected to avoid public attention, Treasurer Jim Chalmers and Transport Minister Catherine King confirmed the AlbaneseGovernment would backflip on its refusal to continue the monitoring.
But Labor is far from off the hook.
It still needs to explain why the monitoring was not continued when it expired in June, given every national airline bar Qantas and most major industry operators supported the ACCC’s ongoing oversight.
Aside from an undertaking that the monitoring will recommence “before the end of the year”, there is no detail on exactly when this will happen – or if it will be operated retrospectively from 30 June.
Labor’s decision must also be called out for what it is: a sordid compromise with the Senate crossbench in return for its help in defeating a vote that would have required Minister King and former Qantas CEO Alan Joyce to appear before the Senate aviation inquiry.
Senator Smith welcomed the competition benefits of re-starting the monitoring, but noted Labor would never have made the move voluntarily.
“For a government increasingly characterized by secrecy and obfuscation, the decision was a rare concession to transparency and accountability,” Senator Smith said.
“But pressure from the Coalition – whose support for the monitoring aligned with Australia’s other airlines, many airports and travel bodies – left Labor little choice but to put the interests of consumers ahead of their friends at Qantas.
“Now the AlbaneseGovernment must explain exactly when the monitoring will recommence and how it will make up for months of lost monitoring and the better airline outcomes for Australians that would have delivered.”
Senator Bridget McKenzie said reinstating the ACCC oversight was a key recommendation…