Joint media release

  • The Hon Michael McCormack MP, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development
  • Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds CSC, Minister for Defence
29 April 2020

The Australian Government has acted again to ensure the movement of critical freight such as agricultural produce, medicines and medical equipment can continue.

Air Vice-Marshal Margaret Staib AM CSC (Retired) has been appointed to the newly created position of Freight Controller, as part of the Government’s $110 million International Freight Assistance Mechanism.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said the appointment demonstrated the Government’s ongoing commitment to supporting the nation’s supply chains.

“The COVID-19 crisis has reduced airfreight capacity and disrupted supply chains around the world,” Mr McCormack said.

“More than 80 per cent of airfreight is usually transported in passenger aircraft and given the drastic reduction in those flights, we are acting to safeguard our airfreight capacity.

“We are working hard with many businesses to re-establish supply chains and secure the critical imports Australians need.”

Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said with over 30 years’ experience in the Australian Defence Force and her past experience as Chief Executive Officer of Airservices Australia, Air Vice-Marshal Staib would bring significant experience with domestic and international aviation and logistics to the role.

“Defence Force logisticians are some of the best in the business and their skills have never been in more demand than now,” Minister Reynolds said.

“Air Vice-Marshal Staib will work closely with the International Freight Coordinator-General, Michael Byrne, as they seek to ensure Australian Government-supported flights during the pandemic are filled with freight in both directions.”

Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Simon Birmingham said the appointment complemented the Australian Government’s $110 million International Freight Assistance Mechanism.

“Air Vice-Marshal Staib will focus on inbound freight of national importance such as medical supplies, while Mr Byrne and the teams across Austrade and the agriculture department focus on commercially oriented freight such as premium agricultural exports,” Minister Birmingham said.

“Maintaining our airfreight capacity is crucial to keeping businesses open and protecting livelihoods through this crisis and will be a critical part of our economic recovery.

“By maximising coordination efforts we can ensure our farmers and fishers can get their high-quality produce on flights and into key overseas markets while also bringing back vital medical supplies for Australia.”

On the recommendation of the Australian Government Freight Controller, Commonwealth funding will be used to secure airfreight capacity, for example by chartering dedicated flights to import essential medicines.