By Tristan Swanwick - Courier Mail,23739,23000831-953,00.html

THE government-owned corporation responsible for running Australia's air traffic control has been accused of expanding into foreign markets while the local system languishes.


And Australian controllers are being lured overseas by better pay and working conditions in wealthy Middle Eastern nations. 

The Courier-Mail revealed on Monday that a shortage of air traffic controllers was putting strain on a system already at breaking point.

Civil Air Australia president Michael Haines said that Airservices Australia's push into foreign markets would bleed valuable resources from domestic operations.

"For me, this just puts additional pressure on a workforce that's already strapped for people," Mr Haines said.

"It is very concerning that – at a time when Airservices does not seem on top of the staffing situation in Australia – the organisation is nevertheless continuing to try to grow the business overseas.

"They seem to have their focus on that instead of getting their own house in order.

"Before any attempt is made to gain overseas business, it is essential that someone focuses on taking the situation here in Australia from precarious to stable.

"This is another example that (Airservices') central concern is profit, with little concern for safety."

Airservices spokesman Terry O'Connor denied that a foreign expansion would affect domestic operations.

"Airservices operates as a commercial entity and we're authorised under our Act to provide commercial services both domestically and internationally," he said. "The primary focus for Airservices management and board is domestic operations."

Mr Haines said that Australian controllers were being enticed overseas by jobs offering better pay and conditions.

"There's a lot of Australian air traffic controllers who go to the Middle East to work because they see the pay as being better because it's tax-free," he said.

"But also – right at the moment – (controllers) are just well and truly p----d off with Airservices Australia management."