Government’s plan to fund domestic flights
THE Federal Government is preparing to spend tens of millions of dollars subsidising Qantas and Virgin Australia domestic flights between key cities during the coronavirus pandemic.
The flights would help hundreds of stranded Queenslanders return home from interstate where they have been in quarantine after arriving from overseas or on cruise ships.
Qantas and Virgin have reduced domestic flights to a trickle since states started locking down their borders and the Morrison Government has been trying to ensure a minimum level of flights continue to transport essential workers and critical medical supplies and personal protective equipment around the country.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack spent much of the Easter weekend locked in negotiations with Qantas and Virgin's respective bosses Alan Joyce and Paul Scurrah to hammer out the package.
It is understood it could go to Cabinet today for approval however last-minute negotiations with the airlines were continuing late yesterday.
Mr McCormack told ABC TV yesterday he wanted to get people quarantined interstate back to the capital city of their home state.
"It's something that we need to do, of course with the states closing the borders," he said.
The package would keep flights in the air servicing Adelaide, Canberra, Brisbane, Darwin, Alice Springs, Hobart, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney.
Bribie Island residents Bob Marsellos and wife Andre are among 242 Queenslanders stuck in Western Australia with no direct flights from Perth to Brisbane scheduled until April 24.
The couple arrived in Fremantle on the Vasco da Gama cruise ship and finished their quarantine on Good Friday but said they had not "heard boo" about how they could get home.
"We're all happy to pay our way," Mr Marsellos said.
"It's the frustration of not knowing when we're going to get out of Perth and back to Brisbane."
A spokeswoman for Queensland Health said the individual states where residents departed from, following their quarantine, were responsible for leading repatriation efforts and negotiating with airlines.
Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington said it needed to be a priority for Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to get the stranded Queenslanders home.
Labor Transport spokeswoman Catherine King welcomed any "belated" move to bring passengers home but urged the Morrison Government to extend a lifeline to Virgin, which has been seeking a $1.4 billion bail out.
"Failure to do so is an active decision to see one of our major airlines fail, leaving over 10,000 Australian aviation workers out of a job and damaging our entire economy," she said.
Originally published as Government's plan to fund domestic flights