Saturday Jun 03, 2023

Audit queries $5 billion support to aviation industry during COVID-19



Australia’s aviation sector received more than $5 billion in COVID-19 support but its performance was not adequately monitored, a new audit report has found.

The federal government established a suite of support measures in response to the pandemic to assist the troubled sector, which was also eligible for the JobKeeper scheme.

Measures included fuel rebates, airport grants, underwriting flight costs and waiving land tax payments, totalling $5.6 billion in government funding.

Qantas received the most financial assistance, including more than $1 billion in government support measures and $856 million in JobKeeper, the audit report found.

The next highest recipient was Virgin Australia, with $330 million in support measures and $285 million in JobKeeper.

Australia’s national carrier and largest airline has come under fire for axing ground crew and staff during the pandemic despite receiving millions of dollars in government support.

A Transport Workers Union survey of 1100 workers found nearly half of those sacked by Qantas are still looking for permanent work two years on.

The sweep of financial support measures were effective, but the audit found the department overseeing them did not adequately monitor how the aviation sector performed as a result of the assistance.

“The department has established consistent processes to review the performance of individual measures,” the report said.

“It has not effectively maintained oversight of the combined impact of the suite of measures, nor has it reported effectively … support provided across measures to individual aviation sector participants.”

The audit found the Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications department largely designed the measures effectively and in a timely manner.

The department also effectively identified instances of “double dipping” by aviation businesses and received a $400,000 reimbursement from an unspecified airline.

The department agreed to the audit’s recommendation to make changes to how it measures performance in future.

It will also undertake a closure report, which will look into the aviation sector’s performance due to the measures, given many of the support mechanisms have finished or are winding up.



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