Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has given his strongest hint yet that the government will provide support for aviation when JobKeeper ends later this month.
Frydenberg told Sky News he was considering “other measures” to put in place in April to support “a range of industries, including the aviation sector”.
“There’s no doubt that the aviation industry’s been hit and hit hard and Qantas having a 75 per cent reduction in their revenue is testament to that,” he said.
Frydenberg also revealed that Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce told him the airline had to cancel 1,500 flights into Queensland in January.
“That was 200,000 passengers that would’ve otherwise gone into Queensland,” Frydenberg said.
“That would’ve been hundreds of millions of dollars spent on tourism so the fact that we will see I think less border closures, less frequent border closures, and the vaccine rollout will be good news for their business.
“Internationally, those borders are remaining closed, effectively, for some time because obviously, the world is still grappling with the virus.”
The comments come as the aviation industry has joined together to lobby the government to take action.
In February, Virgin Australia chief executive Jayne Hrdlicka told a Senate committee that ending JobKeeper would be “devastating”.
She added it might be “impossible” for the business to “bear the financial cost” of operating in a market where borders are opening and closing without warning.
“We cannot predict when it will end,” said Hrdlicka. “We don’t know whether we have two more years to go. We don’t know whether we have two weeks.”
Hrdlicka’s plea was made shortly after an industry open letter was sent to the Prime Minister urging an ‘AviationKeeper’ payment.
It was signed by the businesses Virgin Australia, Menzies, dnata, Gate Gourmet and Swissport and the unions the TWU, ETU, AMWU, ALAEA, FAAA, AWU, VIPA and AFAP.
Meanwhile, the ASU alone has said a survey of 500 of its members revealed three-quarters would not be able to support their family without JobKeeper.
The results also showed 43 per cent had accessed their super, 41 per cent deferred school fees and other expenses and 50 per cent are struggling to pay their mortgage or rent.
The JobKeeper package was introduced to provide coronavirus-effected business with an initial $1,500 per employee, per fortnight.
Companies are then legally obliged to pass that payment onto workers in a bid to keep the economy active during the pandemic.
However, the scheme has proved problematic for much of the aviation industry.
Many airport workers, such as those at Newcastle, are locked out of the financial package because their firms are council-owned; while staff at dnata were similarly told they were no longer eligible because their company is owned by a foreign government.