Transcript - 2GB with Ben Fordham

BEN FORDHAM

Qantas and Virgin have axed nearly 10,000 jobs. Thousands more have been stood down. Now the federal government has agreed to underwrite major domestic routes for the rest of the year. So this will essentially guarantee air services to the regions, and between major cities. The idea is keeping planes in the air, means more jobs on the ground. The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport and regional development is Michael McCormack and he's on the line. Michael, good morning to you.

MICHAEL McCORMACK 

Good morning, Ben.

BEN FORDHAM

So you're going to subsidise Qantas and Virgin.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

We're going to continue to subsidise those places they fly to, because we know that by continuing the domestic aviation support network until 31 January and the regional aviation support network until the 28th of March, means that vital personnel, essential workers, medical experts, indeed, doctors etc, as well as the respiratory equipment, the personal protection equipment can be flown to those centres to which those airlines fly

BEN FORDHAM

And if all of a sudden they pull the pin on some of those regional routes just describe the impact it has on those areas.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

It'd be devastating because of those routes are 35 that actually .... would not get any services but for an airline such as Rex, and for most of them they wouldn't get an airline service but for this, this network that we are extending until early next year. The support already was put on the table $1.31 billion, but it's not about the money. It's about the people in those regional communities, particularly those remote, those very remote areas such as Bathurst Island, such as those in, you know, far, far corners of Western Australia and the Northern Territory. They need services just like every other centre in Australia and thanks to these subsidisation, they'll get it.

BEN FORDHAM

Now as far as the future is concerned quarters wants government support to continue beyond March next year. Is that going to happen.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

We've looked at this and we've continued to monitor it on a virtually daily basis, Ben, and we've made sure that we've provided the support that is needed for the aviation sector. But what we do need is _ and people want to travel _ is those borders to be lifted, those border restrictions to be eased so that we can get more interstate travel, so that people can get around Australia, particularly as it's coming into the warmer months. It's nearly Christmas, people want to get back to their families and if you're in Western Australia, Tassie or Queensland, you've got tight border restrictions people want to get to those places they want to catch up with loved ones in around Christmas in the period, like they always do. And this is just hurting our economy, it's affecting jobs and it's affecting people right across the country.

BEN FORDHAM

On the issue of things hurting the economy, we've got wharfies at Port Botany in Sydney on a go-slow at the moment because there are pay negotiations involving the maritime union and while those negotiations continue their workers say they'll only do the bare minimum. And there's now three weeks’ worth of delays 30,000 empty containers sitting on the docks. The prime minister Scott Morrison says the wharfies are being militant and selfish. And this is having an impact on the bush as well because you've got beef and lamb and grain exports that are sitting there waiting to go.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Oh, sitting there being refrigerated and costing a whole lot of money for people like Roger Fletcher. But it's the farmers who've done it so tough through the drought, and the bushfires and everything else they've had thrown against them and now with a bumper harvest just around the corner, with stock having already been processed or needing to be processed so that the market remains high, they've got this wharfie dispute that they can't get the gear out, they can't get they produce, their best food and fibre in all the world, to the markets but not only that we can ’t get vital medical supplies in to Australia because the ships are stranded offshore. This is not good enough, not Australia, and needs to needs to be resolved quickly.

BEN FORDHAM

Before I let you go. What did you make of the federal government spending $30 million on a parcel of land near the new airport that is actually worth $3 million

MICHAEL McCORMACK

That eventually will be hailed as a good decision. I appreciate that, yes, it was very much over the odds, I appreciate there's a review going into actually how that actually happened, but eventually when there is needing to be more runways and more infrastructure built at Western Sydney Airport they'll look back on they'll say, probably, what a bargain that was. Yes it's over the odds and yes I appreciate that there should have been a better process around it, but it has been a decision taken for $30 million. Yes, it's a lot of money, but in time, it will be a very good investment.
 

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