Two copies of the government-commissioned study by Access Economics on the economic impact of allowing more capacity on middle east air routes fell off the back of emails last night. One landed in Scott Rochfort’s SMH mailbox and one in mine.

As Scott’s already written it up, you can read all about the findings (5,133 more jobs, an extra $483 million a year for the economy etc) here. The end result was that the study helped tip the balance in favour of a near doubling of capacity from the UAE by 2011.

Qantas doesn’t like it and does have a point about having to compete with government-subsidised airlines – Etihad and Qatar are only hoping to be profitable sometime next decade – but Australia overall benefits from the sheiks throwing around their oil money.

What is much more interesting though is the precedent that has been set by the National Tourism and Aviation Advisory Committee commissioning the Access study and acting in the best interests of the nation be accepting its recommendations. If the Middle East routes are deserving of a rational study, what about all the rest?

The intriguing bit is that the study nearly didn’t happen. As Rochfort reports:

The Access Economics study was nearly scuttled in January following objections by two of its members, Qantas and the Federal Department of Transport.

But it was resurrected at the request of the Minister for Tourism Fran Bailey, who has campaigned vigorously for the Government to loosen its protection of Qantas.

Kinda neat the way the transport department comes out looking like an arm of Qantas. It’s interesting that it allegedly took Fran Bailey thumping the table to get the study done and eventually base a capacity decision on what is good for Australia, rather than what is good for Qantas shareholders and management.

So, Fran, how about doing the same thing for capacity on all routes?

There is another little reality to consider though – the world is suffering from a shortage of aircraft at present so that even if we offered more flights, they couldn’t be taken up.

Nonetheless, it would be nice to think Canberra operated on principle rather than lobbying power.

And no child will live in poverty by 1990…

Peter Fray

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