It was headlines at the time. New Zealand Prime Minister John Keys and our own Kevin Rudd revealed this very pleasing "agreement in planning" that flights between Australia and New Zealand would be domesticated. (www.smh.com.au)
No longer would there be the huge issues associated with international travel for the hop across the ditch. It sounded good and long over due. Sydney to Auckland a domestic flight and in and out of the domestic airports. Christchurch to Melbourne the same. Brisbane to Wellington likewise, and so on.
There was celebration on both sides of the Tasman and not least, in every Christian denominational and mission office from Perth Western Australia, all the way across Australia's continent through to Christchurch, Wellington, Auckland and where-ever else.
The travel links between Australia and New Zealand in Christian work – both ways - is phenomenal with a plethora of Christian conferences, ministry teams, outreach, welfare, ministry visits, preaching appointments, theological seminars and workshops, denominational meetings, ministry and mission meetings and the like.
Then nothing happened - still nothing has happened
Clive Dorman's article seems to suggest the idea is dead-in-the-water and moreover it doesn't seem to be a New Zealand issue but squarely in the Australian "money bags" arena – are any of us surprised?
He asked: "who would stand to lose tens or hundreds of millions of dollars if the Tasman suddenly became a common domestic sky? Of course! Australia's privatised airports.... Canberra has continued to treat travellers as a cash cow, increasing the PMC (international 'passenger movement charge') a further 11.7 per cent to $55 for all international travellers entering or leaving the country. That makes it the world's biggest travel tax for short-haul international routes ….
Dorman concludes his article with this salutary statement: The Australian Travel and Transport Forum (TTF) is pleading with Canberra to cut the PMC, noting that in the first month of the new $55 charge (combined with NZ's $NZ25 departure tax), travel between Australia and NZ – collectively Australia's busiest international air corridor – fell 4.5 per cent in July.
Cited was Bruce Buchanan the former Jetstar chief executive said the 'domestic move' would have reduced the typical trans-Tasman fares from around $200 to $140 – the same as comparable domestic routes in Australia like Melbourne or Sydney to Cairns. It would have changed the whole psyche of the trip, a domestic terminal with the 30-minute close-out.
Christian work is at the mercy of big business
Clive Dorman was unmistakable in his disgust. It would have cost the Commonwealth some dollars. He cited the plight of Melbourne's Avalon airport not getting the go ahead as a low cost international airport as is the Gold Coast airport.
Big business first. The people second. But it's worse for Christian denominations and missions where every dollar is a gifted dollar, a dollar that has come in through free-will donations and love gifts from Christians from all walks of life, and many of them pensioners and widows.
A huge percentage of mission gifting comes from the elderly, whether they be self funded retires or supported by the various types pensions available to both Australians and New Zealanders. Every mission dollar saved is a dollar to be spent elsewhere.
A recent article on the Gold Coast Airport illustrated (au.christiantoday.com) the enormous savings Christian mission has in cheap airfares and so much more had this Australian–New Zealand 'domestic air' 2009 announcement been appropriated into the Parliament and approved.
Is there another Australian political leader whose "socks might be set-on-fire and head off hot-foot" to get this back on the agenda?
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html