Transcript FIVEaa Radio Adelaide

LEON BYNER: 

First, let's talk about the imminent move by a company – you probably haven't even heard of them – Swissport. But they are intending to mothball their operations which, if they do, would cripple the ability of some airlines to take to the air again. So let's talk to the bloke who's got the responsibility of dealing with this, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack. Michael, thanks for coming on today.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

That’s a pleasure, Leon.

LEON BYNER:

What’s your reaction to this?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Well, I received the letter a couple of days ago and look, it is a major concern, of course there's three major baggage handlers in Australia. Swissport, who’ve written this letter, of course, Menzies and Dnata and they're worried about their future as understandably, are so many companies across so many different industries and sectors across our nation. This is a health pandemic but it has obviously, huge and great economic implications, Leon and we all know that. We've already, as a Government, put on the table $1.28 billion of sector-wide aviation support. We know of course, that voluntary administration was entered into by Virgin yesterday and they will have a clear flight path forward to their future and that was a courageous decision. I understand that the baggage handlers also play a very important and vital role in aviation support at our airports. And that's important, I’ve got this letter, I'll certainly be in touch with the company and see where we go to. But of course their workers can take part in JobKeeper, that's $130 billion and that's not just for aviation.

LEON BYNER:

Wouldn’t they already know that though?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Well, yes they do. To be fair, they mentioned it in their letter and I appreciate that restrictions have been put in place, but this is necessary to save lives. That's why restrictions have been put in place and if anybody in Australia wonders why we have had these restrictions and questions as to why we should still be in those restrictions, they only need to look at the numbers and compare that to the overseas experience, where many countries have had thousands upon thousands of deaths from this insidious virus.

LEON BYNER:

Well, when will you make a decision on this letter you've got from Swissport and others? Because  clearly it's going to have a major impact on just about everybody.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Look it is, obviously with the aviation sector only down to minimal but essential services at the moment. Obviously the number of people in the sector and Virgin have of course, stood down staff as have Qantas and many of the airlines. Many of the aviation sectors have put off staff but kept them on their books so that they're entitled to JobKeeper. If they're laid off completely, then JobSeeker is there for them. And look, I appreciate that we just don't need the numbers of people at airports. If you go to airports at the moment there aren't too many planes landing and taking off. And there aren't too many people in the check in area in or the baggage handling areas because there's not the flights going. We've got of course, those regional routes and there in South Australia of course, to Ceduna, Coober Pedy, Kangaroo Island and Mount Gambier, Port Lincoln, Whyalla, etc but obviously coming out of Adelaide. We've set up those minimal essential services via regional via the capital cities. But look it's just a situation where everybody is affected, it's not just Swissport, it's the whole aviation sector indeed, business at large right across the nation. And they are just one of a number of companies that's been affected by this virus.

LEON BYNER:

Are you concerned, Deputy Prime Minister that one of the parties that is very, very badly bleeding cash. And this is the owners of all airports be they different. Most of the airport owners who are private or consortiums. They would be bleeding cash at the moment.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

They are, that’s no question. 

LEON BYNER:

And there will come a time when they're going to scratch their heads and think, what the hell are we going to do? We might end up being insolvent. Is there a plan to make sure that doesn't happen?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

I continue to talk to airport CEOs. I spoke to Geoff Culbert from Sydney the other day.  I speak to airport stakeholders all the time. Whether it's the likes of this company, whether it's Regional Express, Qantas, Paul Scurrah from Virgin, etc. Most of my waking minutes of my waking days in past weeks and the recent months have been spent on transport issues, but largely aviation because aviation is the one sector which has been hardest hit in the transport area.

LEON BYNER:

Well, thank you for coming on today because as you know, every State relies on aviation for a whole stack of reasons and I know you're on the case and I hope we can keep in touch with you Deputy PM Michael McCormack.

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