Regional aviation gets $78 million lifeline as recovery plan launched

The Morrison Government is spending another $78 million to help Australia’s aviation sector recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dec 20, 2021, updated Dec 20, 2021

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has unveiled an aviation recovery framework aimed at rebuilding the workforce and upgrading regional infrastructure.

A strategic aviation advisory forum will brief the federal government and provide annual “health checks” about the state of the sector.

“As a critical enabler of economic activity, the government is focused on ensuring the industry returns to pre-pandemic levels as soon as it is safe to do so,” Mr Joyce said.

“We are putting in place policies and regulation to foster a competitive, safe and secure aviation sector that all Australians can rely on, and not just for travel and leisure purposes.”

The framework also includes support to rebuild the workforce, boost general aviation, drive emerging technologies, modernise regulation and reduce red tape.

It’s accompanied by $78 million in new funding, including $4 million to increase the number of women in the sector and $15 million to upgrade remote aerodromes.

Another $29 million will be made available through the third round of a regional aviation infrastructure program.

A $30 million rebate program will help general and recreational aviation operators upgrade aircraft safety.

An existing regional airline support program is also being extended until March 31.

Funding also includes $32.6 million through a previously announced program aimed at emerging aviation technologies such as drones.

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The Australian Airports Association said the funding boost, particularly for regional airports, was much-needed.

“While domestic borders are beginning to reopen and international travel is back on the cards for Australians, airports are by no means out of the woods yet,” chief executive James Goodwin said.

He was disappointed some support programs, including those designed to help maintain mandatory security screening obligations during the depths of lockdowns and border closures, would not continue after December.

Mr Goodwin cited industry modelling that anticipates it will take several years to return to pre-pandemic levels.

Before the pandemic, Australia’s aviation sector supported more than 90,000 jobs.

Since then, the sector has reaped more than $5.3 billion in government support.

Qantas expects domestic capacity to be at 102 per cent of pre-pandemic levels in the third quarter of 2022.

This is expected to rise to 117 per cent in the final months of next year.

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