Millionaire aviator Dick Smith is helping to bring an industry battle right to the doorstep of Member for Riverina Michael McCormack.
Mr Smith has committed to being in Wagga for a fly-in rally which is being organised by pilots, who say their industry is being destroyed by delays in a planned overhaul of aviation safety legislation.
Mr McCormack took over the aviation portfolio when he replaced former Nationals Party Barnaby Joyce in February.
Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) chief executive Ben Morgan said his organisation wanted Mr McCormack to commit to changes to the Civil Aviation Act, which had been agreed to by Mr Joyce and Labor’s Anthony Albanese.
According to the AOPA, Mr McCormack has not yet agreed to these changes and was instead in favour of more consultation.
Mr Smith is also pushing to have Mr McCormack honour the previous Joyce-Albanese agreement.
The crux of the issue is that the current legislation requires the Civil Aviation Safety Authority to “regard safety as the most important consideration”.
The previously agreed amendments would ask that weight be given to the need for “an efficient and sustainable Australian aviation industry”, as well as the “highest level of safety in air navigation”, AOPA says.
“Basically, our general industry is nearly destroyed,” Mr Smith told The Daily Advertiser.
The pressure is already being applied with an AOPA campaign bus visiting Wagga and Deniliquin over the weekend.
“The general aviation industry is in a perilous situation,” Mr Morgan said.
“The Nationals have had carriage of the transport portfolio for many years. For the minister to come out and say he needs time is almost laughable.
“If our minister is not going to listen, I wonder if the people of Wagga would be prepared to have a conversation?”
Earlier this week, Mr Morgan floated the possibility of the general aviation industry running a candidate against Mr McCormack in the next federal election.
He is already on the lookout for a retail space that will serve as an unofficial campaign headquarters and a “hangout” for people who want to know more about aviation.
A spokesperson for the Deputy Prime Minister said Mr McCormack was “certainly open to reform, after due consideration is given to any proposals put forward”.
“Reform such as this takes time to ensure everyone’s views are considered and to ensure there are no unintended consequences of change,” the spokesperson said.