International airport to launch

International flights between Bali and Townsville have been given the green light by the Federal Government.

Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss will travel to Townsville today to announce that Townsville Airport will be able to operate international flights from March 1.

Herbert MP Ewen Jones has been lobbying colleagues in Canberra to cover the cost of providing the services and a breakthrough was achieved this week.

Townsville Airport has been in discussions with AirAsia and Jetstar to commence direct flights bu the high cost of providing customs, quarantine and border protection services had been a sticking point.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said increased visitor numbers would boost North Queensland’s tourism industry and unlock the region’s full potential.

“I hope that these plans can now be finalised and flights can commence in the near future,” Mr Abbott said.

“Opening Townsville Airport to international flights helps to deliver on the Government’s commitment to developing the North,” Mr Abbott said.

Mr Jones said he had worked hard in achieving the breakthrough but it was difficult as it was not an election commitment in 2013.

“The big thing was to find the money and then not to create a precedent where every other airport in Australia put their hand up for it,” he said.

“In 2013 I said Townsville has to become an international city.

“I worked very hard on this but this was a whole-of-government approach. There wasn’t any stage where we threw our hands up as a government to say ‘this can’t be done’.”

Airport chief executive Kevin Gill said he hoped to now establish a ­permanent international airport.

“Townsville Airport welcomes the Abbott government’s announcement to provide border services to the airport, enabling us to attract international carriers and commence international services, and we particularly acknowledge the effort of Herbert MP Ewen Jones,” he said.

“The announcement is a clear acknowledgment from the Federal Government that Townsville is at the forefront of its northern Australia agenda. We have submitted our application to have permanent ­border agencies and now urge government to approve this application as a matter of urgency to enable flights to commence.”

AirAsia has expressed interested in commencing direct flights between Townsville and Denpasar three times a week and discussions with Townsville Airport have been underway for some time.

Jetstar has also expressed its interest in introducing direct flights to Bali in the second half of this year.

Anthony Galloway, Townsville Bulletin – Published Saturday 7 February 2015– Townsville Bulletin Website