Many foreign airlines are ignoring cargo lifts out of Australia because of low freight rates.

While the airlines are quite happy to fill their holds with cargo into Australia, they prefer to leave Australian cargo behind to leave space for more lucrative liftings out of New Zealand, Singapore and other Asian countries.The situation is causing outward delays. It is also restricting the development of exports of some goods, particularly perishable primary products.

The foreign operators claim the policy of Australia's government-owned airline Qantas to keep export cargo rates down to help the country's export drive is largely responsible.

Competing airlines are able to charge what they describe as acceptable rates when lifting cargo out of Australia to destinations, generally in their own countries, not reached by Qantas.

The U.S. Flying Tigers organization sends fully loaded freighters into Australia, but flies them out empty to Hong Kong where they pick up U.S.-destined cargo.

A fully loaded Flying Tigers freighter would earn around US$85,000 for the trip from Australia's east coast to the U.S. West Coast. But from Hong Kong for the trip across the Pacific the freighter earns close to $$370,000.

Because of Qantas policy, exporters from Australia have access to some of the cheapest air freight rates in the world. But since the rates are generally offered only Qantas, destinations are restricted and delays are frequent.

Singapore International Airlines has stated that in its worldwide operations, cargo accounted for 24 percent of revenue. But in its Australian operations the cargo contribution to revenue was barely 12 percent.

A spokesman stated: With outbound rates from Australia roughly one-third the average of inbound shipments, Australia is clearly out of step.

He added that the airline earned $8,500 a platform of cargo from Singapore to Europe. But it had to carry the same cargo volume from Australia to Europe for only $4,200.

The Dutch charter operator Martinair flies DC10 freighters into Australia. The aircraft fly out of Australia empty to Taipai to load better-paying freight to Europe.

Japan Air Lines operates all-freight aircraft into Australia. But the company rarely bothers to look for cargo to fly back to Japan because it believes that the yield is so low it does not warrant uplift, handling and other direct operating costs.

Current Qantas policy is making the airline a major cargo carrier.

Despite the relatively small Australian market in global terms, Qantas is among the top 10 airlines in international air cargo.