The Federal Government has a responsibility to all Australians to ensure our aviation sector survives the Covid-19 crisis.
Comments by the Government ruling out support for Virgin and claiming that a major airline can be replaced quickly by a new entrant do not serve Australians well. They fail to account for the massive displacement of workers or that any new entrant faces a long lag time before it could secure necessary approvals, procure aircraft, recruit staff then begin operations.
Our entire aviation sector will be critical in supporting the broader economy in the recovery from the Covid-19 crisis. It supports hundreds of thousands of jobs, promotes competition and ensures services regularly reach all Australians.
It is not possible for the aviation industry to ‘hibernate’ over coming months without adequate government support. The aviation downturn came about from Government imposed travel restrictions and social distancing measures necessary for public health. Many aviation companies had no capacity to go into the crisis with large cash reserves, and no-one can predict when the crisis will end, let alone when normal operations will resume.
Labor has sought to work with the Government in good faith to support our aviation sector. But, both Labor and the aviation sector have been clear that its two packages are not enough to support the whole aviation industry through this crisis.
With tighter travel restrictions now in place, a package based on refunding around half a billion dollars in fees and charges incurred when flying is now of limited benefit to airlines.
The Government has shown a willingness to support small airlines with $100 million to address their cash flow crisis, it must now be flexible and be open to options for financially supporting large aviation companies. Such measures can include extending or guaranteeing lines of credit and taking an equity stake, which will ensure that when the industry bounces back – and it will – Government can recoup its investment.
Giving up on our aviation industry is not an option for Labor. We will continue to play a constructive, responsible and supportive role through this outbreak, including injecting a sense of urgency where it is absent.