Australia's Deputy PM Wants Planes in the Air

Australia's Deputy PM Wants Planes in the Air
Michael McCormack on Feb. 26, 2018. (Michael Masters/Getty Images)
Caden Pearson

Michael McCormack, Australia's deputy prime minister, has called for states and territories to reopen borders to allow interstate air travel.

"What we need to have our planes back in the air," Michael McCormack told Seven's Sunrise program on Monday.

The federal government will extend its aviation support programs between cities until Jan. 31, 2021, and into regional and remote areas until March 28, 2021. The government subsidy will mean that customers can travel on regional routes without paying higher prices.

McCormack said the extension, which could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars, formed a vital part of the government's aviation support budget.

"Planes in the air mean jobs on the ground, and as part of our economic plan for a more secure and resilient Australia, we will continue to back our aviation sector," the deputy prime minister said in a media release.

The deputy prime minister said: "In regional Australia, flights are so central to local economies, underpinning many small businesses including tourism operators, whilst ensuring continued access to key medical supplies and personnel."

McCormack said regional tourism would help drive Australia's economic recovery and acknowledged the frustration the states' and territories' border arrangements have created.

He encouraged the states and territories to "do their bit" by continuing to ease border restrictions.

"People want to travel. Particularly as we approach these warmer months when people go on holidays, they catch up with their loved ones over Christmas."

McCormack said it was "not good enough" that we've got tight border restrictions preventing people from travelling and that without the government's subsidy planes would not be able to service remote and regional Australia.

He also noted that before the pandemic "one in four Australians would travel by air to visit friends or family every year and by underwriting key routes, we are providing the opportunity for Australians to do just that."

The announcement builds on more than $1.3 billion already committed to maintaining operations and supporting jobs in the aviation industry.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce noted in his address that one of the contributing factors that caused Qantas's $4 billion financial loss was border closures by premiers in the wake of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Victoria.
Speaking to Sky News Joyce argued: "When you have states with zero cases closing their borders to states with zero cases, there doesn't seem to be any medical reason or health reason or any logical reason for those to remain closed."