THE Federal Government hit back yesterday at Opposition claims that Canberra intends to cut funding for regional airports.
The claims came from Opposition infrastructure spokesman Anthony Albanese, who accused Infrastructure Minister Warren Truss of intending to cut funding to regional airports, stifling jobs and economic growth.
A spokeswoman for Mr Truss said there were no plans that would affect Gympie aerodrome and denied there was any attack on the sector overall.
She said some of the programs that Labor accused the Government of cutting were not in existence except as Labor election promises.
Mr Albanese said Mr Truss had announced $8.9 million over two years for the Regional Aviation Access Program, which was fully funded in the 2013 Labor budget.
"However, at the same time he has cut larger grants to airports which were also fully funded in the 2013 budget," he said.
"Critically, this includes $10 million allocated to extend the runway at Whitsunday Coast Airport to cater for larger international aircraft such as the A330s.
"Rather than invest in important regional airport upgrades, Mr Truss has instead cut funding down to just $8.9million.
"Federal Labor invested more than $250 million to build and upgrade regional airports - more than 30 times as much," he said.
Mr Truss's office accused Mr Albanese of twisting the facts with a news release that was "very lean".
"Labor has a shocking track record when it comes to supporting regional aviation," the spokeswoman for Mr Truss said.
"Labor slugged regional aviation with the carbon tax - a $49 million per year cost to the sector, according to the Regional Aviation Association of Australia.
Labor also axed the en-route rebate scheme for regional carriers on July 1, 2012 - a $5 million scheme which gave much-needed support to regional airlines which operate many marginal routes across the country.
There had been no change to total funding for the Regional Aviation Access Program, she said, upgrading regional strips over two years.
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