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Govt defends Rex support as it muscles in on major city routes

Business

Nationals leader Michael McCormack has defended government support for Rex as the regional airline prepares to muscle in on lucrative capital city routes.

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Regional Express was on the brink of collapse earlier this year amid coronavirus-driven carnage.

But government assistance allowed Rex to recover, with the airline announcing plans to raise $30 million to buy new planes and increase services between Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.

McCormack, who is also the federal transport minister, said support for regional airlines allowed medical supplies and personnel to travel across the country.

“Many of those communities would have been left completely high and dry,” he told ABC radio on Tuesday.

“They wouldn’t have been able to have those valuable medical supports and assistance provided but for the likes of Rex and at least a dozen airlines as well.”

Rex’s expansion plans come on the heels of Qantas sacking 6000 workers and Virgin also staring down the barrel of job losses as new owner Bain takes over.

McCormack said Australian airlines were in a far stronger position than overseas counterparts going to the wall during the pandemic.

“We want all airlines to be commercially competitive and commercially viable,” he said.

The Morrison Government has tipped more than $1 billion into aviation during the crisis.

Funding packages geared towards regional airlines have led to claims support has been disproportionate compared to the two major carriers.

Qantas has also been in talks with the government about extending support for its 15,000 stood-down workers when wage subsidies are due to end in September.

McCormack said he understood the push for JobKeeper to be extended.

“Everybody’s pleading for it,” he said.

“We need to get people back into work, and back into work sooner.”

-AAP

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