The Morrison government is pumping another $198 million in support to regional airlines struggling through the coronavirus crisis.
A further $100 million will also be available to smaller regional airlines should they need it during an unprecedented downturn in aviation activity, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack announced.
This brings the government’s total commitment to the aviation sector to over $1 billion.
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“Regional aviation has been smashed by COVID-19,” the Nationals leader told reporters in Wagga Wagga, NSW, on Saturday.
“This package guarantees core routes for domestic air freight will remain open and essential workers remain employed, while providing vital financial support for airlines servicing regional and remote locations.”
Regional airlines are vital in connecting our local communities. The services they provide, both passenger & freight are critical. Today we’ve announced further measures as part of our more than $1b investment in Australia’s aviation industry – we will get through this together. pic.twitter.com/vd0K65rJV1
— Michael McCormack (@M_McCormackMP) March 28, 2020
He said air services are needed now more than ever to connect regional Australia to freight, medical testing, supplies and essential personnel.
“Everything we are doing as a government in response to COVID-19 is focused on saving lives and livelihoods,” Mr McCormack said.
He said there are 26,000 people employed in the regional aviation sector that is worth billions of dollars to rural communities.
This week Virgin Australia announced more than 1000 of its 8000 workers that have been asked to take leave will probably be made redundant.
This included all of its 220 Tigerair pilots.
Mr McCormack ruled out nationalising struggling airlines.
“It is not the government’s intention to nationalise airlines,” he said.
“We want them to continue to be commercial operations.. We want the aviation sector to come out the other side as best it can.”
While supporting the government’s latest action, Labor’s transport spokeswoman Catherine King also called on the government and industry to ensure workers are supported through this crisis.
“Tens of thousands of workers across our aviation industry have been stood down in the last week, and many have no guarantee a job is waiting for them when the crisis is over,” she said in a statement.
“It is essential that we keep as many Australians connected to the labour market and to their employer as possible.”