Chapter 4

Initial committee view on the aviation support package

Committee view

The committee notes the Australian Government's announcement of a
$1.2 billion support package for the aviation and tourism sectors on Thursday, 11 March 2021.1 While the committee has not yet had the opportunity to scrutinise the impact of the package in-detail, it notes the following initial reactions.
The package includes a new Tourism Aviation Network Support (TANS) program, which it is claimed will subsidise 800 000 reduced-cost airline tickets for consumers on select routes.
It also includes a $200 million new International Aviation Support (IAS) package for the Qantas Group (Qantas) and Virgin Australia (Virgin), which is intended to maintain a core Australian international aviation capability, however the committee notes it is not directly tied to maintaining jobs.
The package includes a new Aviation Services Accreditation Support Program, which will provide funding over six months for mandatory training, certification and accreditation, and a Domestic Airports Security Costs Support program to provide funding to eligible domestic airports to meet security screening costs. It remains to be seen how these programs will be administered, and which workers and airports will be eligible for the scheme.
The package also extends the Domestic Aviation Network Support, Regional Airline Networks Support, International Freight Assistance Mechanism and
50 per cent waiver of domestic air services charges for regular public transport and aeromedical flights programs to 30 September 2021.
The committee notes the selective handpicking of eligible routes under the TANS program has attracted substantial criticism from a broad range of stakeholders, including:
New South Wales (NSW), Victoria and Queensland state governments;2
the mayors of Hobart, Dubbo, Wagga Wagga, Mildura and Albury;3
Rex Airlines;
Australia's oldest bus company, Greyhound;4
Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry;5
Australian Tourism Industry Council;6
Queensland Tourism Industry Council;
Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry;7 and
NSW Tourism Industry Council.8
The committee notes the absence of a JobKeeper, or 'AviationKeeper'-style program which would provide direct financial support to impacted workers across the aviation and tourism sectors, has also attracted substantial criticism, including from:
Queensland Government;9
Tourism Accommodation Australia;
Accommodation Association of Australia;10
Tourism & Transport Forum;11
Heinemann Australia;
Australian Retailers Association;12
Flight Centre;
Accor Hotels;13
Australian Council of Trade Unions;14
Transport Workers Union;
Australian Services Union;
Association for Virgin Australia Group Pilots;
Flight Attendants' Association of Australia;
Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers' Association;
Electrical Trades Union;
Australian Workers Union; and
Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union.15
In line with the concerns raised by the aforementioned state and local governments, employers, employer associations and unions, the committee is of the view that the package will provide only a very narrow scope of direct financial support to some workers in international aviation, with no ongoing support for most workers in domestic aviation and aviation services once JobKeeper ends on 28 March 2021.
The committee notes that even Qantas, the single biggest recipient of support under the package, has refused to rule out further job losses,16 and that Qantas and its workers remain unsure of how the IAS package for workers in international aviation will be administered.17
The committee also notes that there have not been any conditions placed on funding under the package which would limit the ability for major recipients, such as Qantas, to pay dividends, executive bonuses or excessive executive remuneration using the funding provided.
Senator Glenn Sterle

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