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COVID-19 support to the aviation sector 1.22 MB

In 2018, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the aviation sector contributed around $20 billion to the Australian economy and facilitated other activities across the economy including tourism, mining and higher education. As a consequence of travel restrictions implemented in response to COVID-19, international and domestic passenger flights decreased by 95 per cent in the period from January to April 2020. The decrease in flights impacted the viability of commercial passenger airlines globally.

From March 2020 the Australian Government introduced a range of financial and non-financial measures to support the aviation sector in Australia. Aviation sector support measures were introduced in two phases: initial support measures introduced from March 2020 to June 2020 to address the impact of COVID-19 on the aviation sector; and subsequent support measures introduced in late 2020 and 2021. The suite of measures had three core objectives:

  1. to maintain essential air connectivity without subsidising commercially viable activities;
  2. to preserve critical aviation capacity to allow the sector to restart after the pandemic; and
  3. to maintain supply lines for air freight imports and exports.

Australia’s aviation sector has been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of the economic response to COVID-19, the Australian Government has committed over $5.6 billion to a suite of measures to support the aviation sector from March 2020 through to 2022–23. As a result, there has been significant parliamentary and public interest in the Australian Government’s administration of the support measures. The audit was conducted to provide assurance to the Parliament that the Australian Government has designed and implemented the measures effectively.

Key findings:

  • The department’s design and management of measures to support the aviation sector has been effective, except for performance monitoring.
  • The department’s design of the suite of COVID-19 aviation sector support measures was effective. The department provided sound and timely advice on the design of the measures and their ongoing need. The department adequately considered legislative and procedural requirements for most grant and procurement measures. Consultation on the design of the measures was adequate with some limitations arising from time constraints.
  • The department’s implementation of aviation sector support measures has been largely effective. It established fit-for-purpose oversight coordination arrangements, appropriately identified and managed implementation risks, and communicated in a timely and largely effective manner with stakeholders. Effectiveness has been reduced by deficiencies in monitoring and evaluating the performance of the suite of measures.
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Auditor-General Report No.40 2021–22