The federal government has announced it will spend a further $260 million on extending its initiative to underwrite agriculture and fisheries airfreight routes cut off by border closures until mid-2022.
The “International Freight Assistance Mechanism” (IFAM), which launched in April last year, has already provided $1.04 billion in financial help to the industry, connecting nine ports to 58 international destinations.
It comes after it was also announced the Domestic Aviation Network Support (DANS) and Regional Airline Network Support (RANS) programs, which supplement essential flights between airports, would continue until the end of the year, alongside JobKeeper-style support to airline workers.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said IFAM has been a “lifeline” to farmers, fishers and primary producers, mostly in regional Australia.
“A key feature of IFAM has been the logistical and administrative support for international freight movements by aggregating cargo loads, negotiating with airlines and collaborating with partner state and territory governments to facilitate clearances and improve transparency of freight costs during the pandemic,” he said.
In the first month of the initiative alone, 560 businesses and 15 airlines registered their interest to use the scheme, including Qantas and Virgin Australia as well as Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Etihad, Federal Express, Japan Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Qatar, CT Freight, Schenker Australia, Kuehne & Nagel, Air Menzies International, Toll and DHL Global Forwarding.
So far, it has supported more than 13,000 flights.
Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud said the additional funding was a major win for Australian farmers.
“We’re backing our farmers by making sure they can continue to get more of their high-quality product into overseas markets,” Minister Littleproud said.
“Keeping our farmers connected with their established international customers helps keep their operations going and maintains their reputation as a reliable supplier of top-quality product.”
Earlier this month, Deputy PM Joyce announced airline staff outside of COVID hotspots will gain access to JobKeeper-style payments of $750.
Previously, stood down workers in aviation could only gain access to support if they live in areas that are locked down, such as NSW. The new package aims to supplement the salaries of those in non-hotspot areas whose jobs are affected by nationwide border closures.
Initially, 50 per cent of pilots and cabin crew from airlines would be eligible for the payment, providing they could prove revenue was down at least 30 per cent.
“If the crisis goes on then we have the capacity to scale up to more than 50 per cent of employees who are aircrew, we’re talking about pilots and flight attendants,” said Deputy PM Joyce.
Qantas said support was “much appreciated, given the acute challenges facing the sector”.
The Tourism Aviation Network Support (half-price flights) initiative is also being extended to 30 November 2021 for both sales and travel.
“The government recognises the importance of keeping essential support for aviation in place to ensure the sector is well-placed to soar to new heights when restrictions ease and more people can once again choose to fly,” said Deputy PM Joyce.
“We are laser-focused on keeping the nation connected and supporting economically critical freight movements as we continue to manage the ongoing challenges of this global pandemic and move into a recovery phase.”
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