Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack has suggested that residents excluded from his government's $1.2 billion regional flights package can "jump in a car" and drive if they want to travel.
The federal government will pay the aviation industry to halve the price of 800,000 flights to 17 regional locations, between April and July, in an effort to encourage domestic tourism in the wake of coronavirus.
Regional Australians, like those living in Mr McCormack's own electorate, will need to travel in order to catch a cheap flight because they are only leaving from select metropolitan airports.
The Nationals MP, whose ministerial portfolio also includes transport and regional development, was questioned on the Morrison government's aviation package on the ABC's Insiders program on Sunday morning.
Host David Speers said several members of Mr McCormack's own party were "in their own words, livid" that the package excluded regional Australians.
"If you're where you are, Wagga, for example, you've got to get yourself for Sydney if you want to access one of these discounted flights. Have you ignored your own people here?" Mr Speers asked.
Mr McCormack, speaking from outside his electorate office in Wagga Wagga in NSW's Riverina, responded to the question by saying that the package identified locations that were usually busy mid-year with international visitors spending money on tourism.
Mr Speers asked again how the package would help people living in Wagga who are unable to catch any of the cheap flights from their airport.
McCormack replied: "Well, indeed, people from Wagga often jump in a car and drive to a location. People in Wagga can access this."
Mr Speers asked Mr McCormack how far the drive was from Wagga to Sydney, to which he replied "the public are delighted with this".
Wagga is about 445 kilometres from the airport in Sydney and 440 kilometres from the one in Melbourne.
Federal opposition leader Anthony Albanese has criticised the discount flights plan for being "very narrow" and leaving out tourism operators.
"This isn't a tourism package, it's a selective aviation package," Mr Albanese said on Thursday.
"The rug is about to be pulled from under those businesses and I think it's very disappointing that for tourism operators around the country there's not a single extra dollar.
"It's political management first and then substance second."
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Labor has also criticised the Morrison government for selecting mostly Coalition-held or marginal electorates in its initial list of 13 discounted destinations.
However, Mr McCormack said on Insiders that the Australian Trade and Investment Commission had identified the locations based on their usual high numbers of international tourists now prohibited from travelling due to the pandemic.
He said his government would review the package and consider adding more destinations and more flights.
Mr McCormack's office was contact for comment on Sunday.