Qantas boss seeks ongoing government help

Qantas chief Alan Joyce is confident the Morrison government will extend its support for the aviation sector during the coronavirus crisis, a pandemic that has savagely hit the national carrier.

Economists too are banking on ongoing support measures when Treasurer Josh Frydenberg hands down his budget on October 6 to assist the economy in its recovery from its worst downturn since the Great Depression.

Qantas reported a massive 91 per cent profit loss for the 2019/20 financial year on Thursday, in what Mr Joyce described as the airline’s toughest six months trying to survive the COVID-19 pandemic.

Qantas has been in talks with the government to extend the existing package of support measures, to which Mr Joyce says he has received a positive response.

The government has provided the aviation industry some $1.2 billion of aid through the crisis, such as domestic and regional network support programs.

Mr Joyce has also written to state premiers seeking industry assistance given it is their decisions on borders that have added to the airline’s woes.

“It should not just be a burden on the federal government because in a lot of cases it is the state governments that are making these decisions,” he told reporters on Thursday.

The Australian and International Pilots Association, which represents pilots in the Qantas Group, also wants the government to urgently bring forward funds “to save the industry from ruin”.

Mr Joyce is urging the national cabinet to agree to a set of guidelines surrounding the opening and closing of state borders based on medical advice.

“At the moment it’s not clear what those rules are,” Mr Joyce said.

“It’s a problem for all business. And eventually it’s going to be a big problem for the economy.”

A survey by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry this week showed the closure of international and domestic borders is having a negative impact on more than half of Australia’s businesses.

Mr Joyce said at some stage the tourism industry needs to start again, and while JobKeeper is helping, people need to get back into work.

“Otherwise we’re going to have a cliff that’s going to be bigger than the financial impact that COVID-19 has already caused,” said.

Westpac chief economist Bill Evans expects Victoria’s stage four restrictions will hamper the recovery from the first recession in nearly 30 years.

He expects the government will be committed to providing generous ongoing support to the economy.

“Most of this support is likely to be on a non-recurring form, including bringing forward the July 2022 (income) tax cuts, one-off payments and infrastructure spending,” he said.

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