House debates

Wednesday, 2 December 2020

Questions without Notice

COVID-19: Aviation

2:47 pm

Photo of Matt ThistlethwaiteMatt Thistlethwaite (Kingsford Smith, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Financial Services) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development. Darren from Botany is a 52-year-old single dad who has been working as Qantas ground crew for 24 years. He was stood down in March. Darren said he was forced to sell his house to care for his kids and for his dad, who has dementia. He was one of the 2,000 Qantas workers sacked this week. Why is this government congratulating itself and using marketing slogans while workers like Darren are left behind?

Photo of Michael McCormackMichael McCormack (Riverina, National Party, Leader of the Nationals) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Kingsford Smith for his question and I acknowledge the fact that, yes, in the aviation sector, many employees have been stood down and this is very, very unfortunate. I am very sorry to hear Darren's story. I'm sure he's been a fine worker, and certainly we would like to see Darren back—to make sure that he gets another job when the aviation sector returns to some sort of pre-COVID level.

We know that many industries are getting back to where they need to be as far as pre-COVID levels go. But, as Alan Joyce, the CEO of Qantas, said only recently, even up to Christmas, domestic travel will only be 60 per cent of pre-COVID levels. But what we have done for the aviation industry is provide sector-wide assistance. There has been $2.7 billion of sector-wide assistance through the Domestic Aviation Network Support program and through the Regional Airline Network Support program to ensure that we have planes in the air, because, as I've said many times, planes in the air mean jobs on the ground. And we need to see more planes in the air; we need to see more jobs in the aviation sector.

I appreciate that the member for Kingsford Smith certainly comes from an electorate very near Mascot. I appreciate that he has engaged with these employees, as I have. We want to see more people working in the aviation sector, but it's been very tough with the border closures, appreciating the fact that Western Australia made the announcement only this week about resuming domestic travel and lifting those border restrictions for other states. It's been very, very tough, with border closures in many Australian states. Also, appreciating the fact that international travel is of course very, very restricted, we're bringing as many Australians home as we can. We're making sure that those stranded Aussies have access to get home before Christmas. It is so tough on international inbound tourism and stranded Aussies coming home. It's so tough domestically and so tough regionally. But that's what we have done. On a sector-wide assistance basis, we have provided that support to the entire aviation sector, with $2.7 billion worth of support through JobKeeper, DANS and RANS. We want to continue, we will continue and must continue to support the aviation sector, but, as I say, it is very tough, particularly for people like Darren. We will continue to provide the support as necessary.