Vic decrys ‘unfair’ discount airfare plan

Acting Premier James Merlino says Victoria has received a raw deal as part of the federal government’s scheme to slash airfares to regional tourism destinations.

The $1.2 billion tourism and aviation package, unveiled by the Morrison government on Thursday, will halve the cost of about 800,000 return flights to 13 destinations across Australia.

Passengers will be eligible to receive a 50 per cent discount from April 1 to July 31, covering the upcoming Easter and Winter holidays.

Avalon airport, the gateway to the Great Ocean Road and Bellarine Peninsula, was the only Victorian location to make the cut.

Mr Merlino, standing in for Premier Daniel Andrews as he recovers in hospital with spinal and rib injuries, said it was unfair.

“The numbers speak for themselves,” he told reporters on Thursday.

“Five in Queensland, three in Tassie, two in the Northern Territory, just one in Victoria.”

He said there was nothing for interstate travellers who want to visit Melbourne, Gippsland, the Ballarat goldfields, Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula, Murray or high country regions.

“It’s like they’re looking at the Melbourne and Sydney markets and using them as the source for markets across the rest of the country,” Mr Merlino said.

“It is not fair and we are disappointed.”

The Victoria Tourism Industry Council said the “halfway” package disadvantages destinations that missed out, particularly Melbourne.

“This will cannibalise our tourism opportunities here in Victoria,” VTIC chief executive Felicia Mariani said in a statement.

“This package also fails to address the key issue of consumer confidence. People are reluctant to travel and risk being at the other side of a snap border closure.

“We need to address the issue of snap border closures once and for all if we are to have any hope of encouraging Australians to confidently travel interstate.”

The Victorian government plans to push for Melbourne to be added to the destination list, incentivising travel to more parts of the state.

“I do understand that there was a meeting of tourism ministers yesterday, and the federal tourism minister (Simon Birmingham) indicated to state and territory ministers that he’s prepared to look at changes,” Mr Merlino said.

“That is exactly what we will be putting to the federal government. This is not a fair outcome at this stage.”

The new federal scheme comes as state Tourism Minister Martin Pakula announced 40,000 travel vouchers for Victorians to visit and stay in Melbourne would be up for grabs online from 10am on Friday.

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