Inquiry into aviation industry takes off

Paul Osborne
·2-min read

The bosses of Qantas, Virgin and other airlines will come under the spotlight of a new inquiry approved by the Senate on Monday.

The Senate's transport committee will report by March 31 next year on the future of the aviation sector which has been devastated by travel bans designed to stem the spread of coronavirus.

The inquiry will also look at the adequacy of government support for the industry, the long-term future of aviation jobs, the indirect damage to other employers such as tourism, and ways to better back the sector's recovery.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese, who addressed rallying workers in Canberra on Monday, said aviation workers had the "year from hell".

"They deserve a government that has their backs, but instead the Morrison government is just leaving them behind."

Transport Minister Michael McCormack earlier told parliament aviation was "making great progress on the comeback".

"It has been so hard," he said.

"Planes in the air means jobs on the ground. And aviation was hit first and hit hardest and we have protected and backed and supported the aviation sector."

Aviation workers and their union representatives speaking outside Parliament House begged to differ.

"It is crucial that parliament recognises the particular difficulties the aviation industry is in and investigates what needs to be done to save jobs and businesses," Transport Workers Union national secretary Michael Kaine said.

"This is not an industry that can be allowed to die, yet that is what we are facing since the federal government has no plan, no policy and no strategy for our industry."

Qantas announced 6000 job cuts in June, followed in August by a decision to outsource ground handling at a 10 airports with a likely further 2500 jobs lost.

Qantas chairman Richard Goyder told the airline's AGM last month COVID-19 and border restrictions had caused a $4 billion hit to revenue last year and at least $10 billion this year.

Mr Goyder said the lion's share of government support had been through JobKeeper, which had been a lifeline for stood-down employees.

The other major government support package saw Qantas and Jetstar operate international, domestic and regional flights, as well as some freight services, to "maintain critical links that had been made commercially unviable by COVID-related travel restrictions", he said.