Barnaby Joyce has wiped his hands of Tamworth airport’s struggle to get more flights into Sydney, saying his portfolio had no oversight of the laws governing aircraft slots at Sydney Airport.
The comments put him at odds with regional state MPs – including Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson – who have been pushing hard for more regional slots into Kingsford Smith Airport.
The stoush started when NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance called on the federal government to alter the Sydney Airport Demand Management Act to allow for extra slots to be set aside for regional aircraft.
Mr Constance told the Sydney Morning Herald on Monday that Mr Joyce had been obstinate on the issue and was “completely and utterly out of touch on what is required to drive regional aviation opportunities”.
“All Canberra have to do is amend the Sydney Airport Management Act and give those additional slots and it will be really beneficial,” he said
“Barnaby Joyce quite frankly has his head in the sand.”
But Mr Joyce, the federal Agriculture and Water Resources Minister, hit back at his state colleague, saying Mr Constance would “do well to realise” that his ministry had no oversight of the laws governing aircraft slots at Sydney Airport.
“I’ve not received a word from this person, not a letter, not so much as a phone call – in fact, I wouldn’t know him if he stood up in my cornflakes,” Mr Joyce said.
Mr Anderson, who refused to talk to The Leader, met with Mr Joyce in October to discuss the ongoing issue after Virgin Australia announced it would cut its Tamworth to Sydney night-time flights from six times a week to three due to new allocations into Sydney airport.
In September, Mr Joyce told The Leader he would back Mr Anderson in calling for a solution to the problem.
At the time, Mr Joyce suggested reducing the time between flights and extending the curfew at airports as possible solutions.
Barwon MP Kevin Humphries doesn’t believe adding additional slots for large regional centres like Tamworth, Wagga Wagga and Dubbo would help the majority of country NSW.
Mr Humphries said the government needed to look further afield to rural communities such as Inverell, Moree and Narrabri.
“If they want more flights into Sydney, they need to tied it together with servicing those communities and push it out more broadly,” Mr Humphries said.