Thursday, 14 May 2020
Questions without Notice
COVID-19: Aviation Industry
My question is to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister has said that the government will not provide assistance to Virgin airlines because the government would only take a sector-wide approach. Why, then, has the government provided nearly $54 million in an untied cash grant to majority foreign owned Rex airlines, which employs around a thousand workers, but no equivalent support for Virgin, which employs almost 10,000 workers?
The Deputy Prime Minister will pause for a second. The member for Rankin has already been warned. There's no need to walk. No more. It takes a lot to get thrown out at this point in time, but I haven't forgotten how to do it. And the member for Ballarat, having asked her question, will not then try and conduct a conversation across the table.
I thank the shadow minister for infrastructure and transport for her question. We have committed more than $1.2 billion of support to cushion the aviation industry. It's been very, very hard hit by COVID-19. It has been very hard hit. Virgin Australia went into COVID-19 and they were doing it tough. Aviation is a tough industry. The margins are small, and they need to be their best selves. We want to see two commercially viable airlines coming out of the back of COVID-19. I'm sure I share that view with every member of the House. I'm sure I do.
Any assistance we have provided to aviation has been sector wide. Yes, Regional Express Airlines has benefited from the $1.2 billion of sector-wide support. Yes, they have benefited from the $100 million underwriting. Yes, they have benefited from the $198 million that we've provided for regional airlines to service those 138 communities which but for Rex, but for QantasLink, but for Virgin and but for those other fine regional airlines which fly into those country centres would not have been serviced. Some of those country centres would not have been receiving frontline medical personnel. Some of those regional centres would not have been provided with personal protection equipment. Some of those regional services would not have been provided with the face masks that they received thanks—
We are supporting each and every airline through our sector-wide assistance. We are supporting Rex, yes. We are supporting Qantas, yes. We are supporting, very much, Virgin. And we're very pleased that for Virgin there are potentially 19 investors—in fact, potentially even more. Of course, tomorrow the preliminary bids as part of the voluntary administration process—about which I spoke to Paul Scurrah, the CEO of Virgin, this week—are going through, and we've appointed Nicholas Moore to liaise with the voluntary administrators. He's reporting back to Treasury. He's reporting back to me. We want to make sure that we have two commercially viable airlines through this. I'm sure that is the view of everybody in this House.
All of those airlines are supporting workers. There have been many, many workers from Virgin who have contacted me, and I am writing back and personally signing each and every one of those bits of correspondence.
An opposition member interjecting—
Yes, each and every one because they are important to me, as I'm sure they're important to you. We want those jobs. Ten thousand people work for Virgin. I want to make sure that, through this process, as many of those workers still have a job, and I'm sure that view is shared.
I seek leave to table an extract from the government's GrantConnect website showing the funding received by Rex of $54 million under the Regional Airlines Funding Assistance Program, which is not being made available to Virgin Australia.