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senate vote 2014-07-17#25

Edited by mackay

on 2014-12-04 10:15:20

Title

Description

  • The majority supported the main idea of the [bill](http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Bills_Legislation/Bills_Search_Results/Result?bId=r5187) (in parliamentary jargon, they wanted to give it a [second reading](http://www.peo.gov.au/learning/fact-sheets/making-a-law.html)). This means the senators can now discuss the bill in more detail.
  • The main idea of the bill is to remove the foreign ownership and other restrictions that apply to [Qantas](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qantas) but do not apply to other airlines based in Australia (read more on [ABC News](http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-03-04/qantas-foreign-ownership-changes-explained/5296914) and on ABC's [AM](http://www.abc.net.au/am/content/2014/s3956107.htm)).
  • ### Background to the bill
  • The Government introduced this bill after refusing to give Qantas a debt guarantee (see [ABC News](http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-03-03/abbott-announces-intended-changes-to-qantas-sale-act/5295700)), which Qantas had wanted because it looked like credit agencies may downgrade to Qantas’ credit rating (see the [bills digest](http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Bills_Legislation/bd/bd1314a/14bd055)).
  • The [current restrictions](http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Bills_Legislation/bd/bd1314a/14bd055) on Qantas include:
  • * limits on the issue of Qantas shares and their ownership
  • * the makeup of the board of directors
  • * use of the name Qantas and the location of the head office
  • * the place of incorporation and the principle place of business.
senate vote 2014-07-17#25

Edited by mackay

on 2014-12-04 10:01:28

Title

  • Bills — Qantas Sale Amendment Bill 2014; Second Reading
  • Qantas Sale Amendment Bill 2014 - Second Reading - Agree the main idea of the bill

Description

  • <p class="speaker">Doug Cameron</p>
  • <p>Firstly, could I personally associate myself with the remarks made by Senator Wong, Senator Abetz and Senator Milne in relation to Flight MH17 and express my condolences to the families and friends of all who have been lost in this terrible tragedy.</p>
  • <p>Labor will not be supporting the repeal of part 3 of the Qantas Sale Act. The consequences of this legislation risk the break-up of Qantas&#8212;it is just that simple. The legislation allows for Qantas international to be separated from Qantas domestic. Labor does not support these changes. Labor supports keeping Qantas Australian, not because it is a national icon but because it is in our national interest. Keeping Qantas Australian does not just mean in terms of ownership. It also means keeping its operational base here in Australia&#8212;and I am sure other senators will talk about the implications of the operational base being maintained within this country. It means keeping its head office in Australia. It means keeping its board in Australia.</p>
  • The majority supported the main idea of the [bill](http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Bills_Legislation/Bills_Search_Results/Result?bId=r5187) (in parliamentary jargon, they wanted to give it a [second reading](http://www.peo.gov.au/learning/fact-sheets/making-a-law.html)). This means the senators can now discuss the bill in more detail.
  • The main idea of the bill is to remove the foreign ownership and other restrictions that apply to [Qantas](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qantas) but do not apply to other airlines based in Australia (read more on [ABC News](http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-03-04/qantas-foreign-ownership-changes-explained/5296914) and on ABC's [AM](http://www.abc.net.au/am/content/2014/s3956107.htm)).
  • ### Background to the bill
  • The Government introduced this bill after refusing to give Qantas a debt guarantee (see [ABC News](http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-03-03/abbott-announces-intended-changes-to-qantas-sale-act/5295700)), which Qantas had wanted because it looked like credit agencies may downgrade to Qantas’ credit rating (see the [bills digest](http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Bills_Legislation/bd/bd1314a/14bd055)).
  • The [current restrictions](http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Bills_Legislation/bd/bd1314a/14bd055) on Qantas include:
  • * limits on the issue of Qantas shares and their ownership
  • * the makeup of the board of directors
  • * use of the name Qantas and the location of the head office
  • * the place of incorporation and the principle place of business.
  • <p>I remember some years ago reading an article about the emergence of the 'virtual airline'. That meant you simply had a name&#8212;and in this case the name would be Qantas&#8212;but all of the airline would be operated remotely from where the airline was based. The maintenance would be done overseas, the catering could be flown in, the administrative work could be done overseas and the flight attendants hired overseas. All of these issues were outlined as being where some in the airline industry wanted the industry to go. This became the 'virtual airline'.</p>
  • <p>Well, I want an Australian airline. Labor wants an Australian airline. We do not want a virtual airline. The problem we have is that the coalition, after telling people in the lead-up to the election that they wanted to keep the iconic Australian airline, Qantas, in Australian hands, when they are in office again it is a different story. This is a government that cannot be trusted. It cannot be trusted to hold to its word on almost anything. It has lied its way into power, it continues to lie in government, it continues to cover up the implications of the decisions it makes&#8212;and the Australian public are saying, 'We do not trust you.</p>
  • <p>The Australian public are correct in saying that they want to maintain Qantas in Australian hands, and they are correct in not trusting this government to maintain Qantas in Australian hands.</p>
  • <p>The repeal of part 3 of the Qantas Sale Act means that what they said before the election will not be delivered after the election. We need Qantas to be Australian based. We need it for a whole range of issues: to maintain jobs in Australia and to maintain skills in Australia for our security both on a domestic and a regional basis. We want the Qantas group and its 300,000 workers to still call Australia home. The Abbott government on the other hand could not care less if its changes export jobs and leave the door open for what shadow transport minister Albanese has called the 'flying kangaroo becoming the flying panda or the flying camel'.</p>
  • <p>The coalition has been all over the place on its position on this important issue, an issue that impacts on the job security of thousands of Australians. Back in December the Deputy Prime Minister said that there was no support amongst the Australian people for these changes. Well, Deputy Prime Minister, you are right. When the Labor government proposed making modest changes to the Qantas Sale Act that would keep Qantas in Australian hands but reduce restrictions on foreign investment in the airline, guess what? The coalition opposed it.</p>
  • <p>The now Treasurer, Mr Hockey, said that any reduction in the restrictions on foreign ownership was not in the 'national interest'. The Nationals leader and now Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Warrant Truss, said in 2009:</p>
  • <p class="italic">Loss of effective Australian control could leave Australia without an airline primarily committed to our interests. What safeguards will be put in place for the Australian flying public, particularly those in regional areas?</p>
  • <p>This care for Qantas remaining in Australian hands is now gone. It is typical of this untrustworthy government. What a shock that the Nationals feign interest in regional Australia while in opposite and then roll over, as the doormats that they are, to their Liberal masters in government.</p>
  • <p>In February the Treasurer indicated that a request from the national carrier for government support would be viewed favourably. This was then withdrawn by the government, and the legislation that we are now debating was put forward. It is another shambles by a government that is demonstrating, day in, day out, an incapacity to govern effectively, an incapacity to deal with the big issues for Australians, in a mature and competent manner. It is a government that is a shambles, and people are getting used to it.</p>
  • <p>The opposition has consistently said they will consider proposals from the government on their merit, including but not limited to a debt guarantee, at a reasonable cost to Qantas, or a small equity stake. We do not accept Prime Minister Abbott's argument that you must export jobs to save them. That is what he said. On 3 March Tony Abbott said:</p>
  • <p class="italic">If some jobs have to go offshore &#8230; it may be regrettable but nevertheless it is the best way to guarantee Australian jobs for the long term.</p>
  • <p>That right! You have to kill Australian jobs to save them. What absolute nonsense. What the Prime Minister fails to understand, and this government collectively fails to understand, is that aviation is not a level playing field. There are not too many governments around the world saying that they should kill highly skilled aviation jobs to save other jobs. They are not doing that. It seems to be a development only being pursued by the conservatives in this country&#8212;to kill manufacturing jobs, to kill highly skilled maintenance jobs, to kill jobs that give ordinary Australians an opportunity to feed their family, pay the rent and send their kids to school. They just treat jobs in a flippant manner. It is all done on the basis of some ideological argument, some theoretical argument that does not make any sense. That is the problem with this mob over here. They just do not understand, outside this ideological, theoretical base that they have, what is important for Australia, what is important for Australian families and what is important for our jobs.</p>
  • <p>As I indicated, it is not a level playing field. Labor recognises that there is not a level playing field out there. Last November, Virgin needed an injection of capital and received that injection from its partner airlines&#8212;Etihad, Air New Zealand and Singapore Airlines&#8212;all supported by their respective governments. But this mob, because they have an ideology that says, 'The market will fix everything; just leave it to the market', are saying there will be no government support, no government intervention. They do not even look at what is happening with the most successful airlines in the world. They believe that the market will resolve everything. That just denies the reality that around the world the top airlines are majority-owned by their governments. Emirates, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines and the three big Chinese airlines are all supported by their governments. These facts are ignored by this ideologically driven, incompetent Abbott government.</p>
  • <p>The Qantas Sale Act preserves Qantas's status as an Australian based carrier. This is important because nation-states use their national carriers to arrange air service agreements with other nation-states under the Chicago convention. The act requires Qantas to be based in Australia, to have an Australian board and to locate the majority of its international operations in Australia. This keeps Qantas Australian and the majority of its employees Australian based.</p>
  • <p>One of the knock-on effects of the act is that Qantas operates more extensively on regional routes. Changes to the Qantas Sale Act could put so much of this at risk. As the Senate inquiry into this bill established, amendments could prompt the airline to move its maintenance or other facilities offshore, risking tens of thousands of jobs.</p>
  • <p>I know, Acting Deputy President Sterle, that you were deeply involved in the inquiry. It said that changes to the act would mean that current levels of air service to regional Australia could be reduced, the Qantas name would not have to be used for international services, the head office would not have to be in Australia and the board would no longer have to be at least two-thirds composed of Australians. Labor will not allow these provisions to be taken out of the legislation as this incompetent government proposes. Labor will move an amendment to remove the 35 per cent and 25 per cent sublimits on foreign ownership, but we will retain the requirement for at least 51 per cent of ownership of Qantas by Australians and the other elements of part 3 that give Qantas its Australian character.</p>
  • <p>Labor's position on removing the 35 per cent and 25 per cent restrictions reflect a recommendation supported by the Labor government arising from the 2009 aviation white paper. This followed thorough consultation with the transport and tourism industry. The recommendation was that Qantas should stay in majority Australian hands but that we should consider repealing the sections of the act relating to the 35 per cent rule and the 25 per cent rule&#8212;the shareholding limits on a single owner who is not Australian and on ownership of Qantas by other airlines.</p>
  • <p>That is what we are proposing today. Unlike the coalition, Labor has been fully consistent on this matter. Labor unequivocally stands for Australian jobs. Qantas has the safest record of airlines around the world and it is known for it. The debate is not about sentiment; it is about economic interest. If you allow Australia to be ripped out of Qantas, you are ripping up an icon. Shipping Qantas overseas is not in our national interest. I urge the Senate to support our amendments and vote down the government's changes&#8212;changes that will send Australian jobs overseas and destroy the Flying Kangaroo.</p>
  • <p>I come to this debate with some involvement with Qantas over many years. I was very pleased to represent maintenance employees at Qantas in bargaining with that airline over a number of years to ensure that there was reasonable wages, reasonable conditions for the highly skilled workers at Qantas. But I can tell you that in every bargaining round that I was involved in, whether it was under James Strong or Geoff Dixon&#8212;luckily I did not have the pleasure to do it under Alan Joyce, but I did under James Strong and Geoff Dixon&#8212;the threat was always there: that if Qantas had the ability to send their maintenance overseas, they would send their maintenance overseas.</p>
  • <p>The cost of maintenance in some of these giant regional maintenance hubs was argued as being substantially less than the cost was in Australia. But there was always a realisation by the Qantas management that the reputation of Qantas was too important to send the maintenance overseas&#8212;not just some of the senior management, but the technical managers within Qantas that I spoke to over the years were always concerned about increasing the length of the decision making in maintenance from Australia out into Asia. You had better control, better quality control, better support for your maintenance facilities if you are making the decisions within Australia.</p>
  • <p>Even though there was always that implied threat that if we could do this we would, and some maintenance was sent overseas, the Qantas Act maintained the core of Australian maintenance jobs within Australia. Those jobs are very high skilled jobs in maintenance. As we have seen this mob over here vandalise the manufacturing sector by basically daring GM to get out of Australia, daring Toyota to get out of Australia, we see more and more high-skilled jobs within Australia being exported overseas. That is what would happen if this bill ever became a reality.</p>
  • <p>There is a wide range of work done within the maintenance area. I am sure that we will hear from other senators about the skills in other areas, but I am familiar with the maintenance area. We do routine maintenance checks when the planes come in, we do minor and major airframe repairs, we do structural inspections, we do corrosive prevention and control programs, we do ageing aircraft inspections, we do aircraft modification and refurbishment. We do the whole box and dice. We do non-destructive testing, sheet metal work, composite and carbon fibre, fitting and machining, hoses and tubes, cabin maintenance, chair maintenance, paint and surface restoration&#8212;and it goes on. The skills within Australia are enormous in this area.</p>
  • <p>What would happen if this incompetent government had their way? Qantas would be opened up to be sold and there would be no checks and balances about maintaining those skills within Australia. I am now convinced that this rabble that call themselves a government have no idea what it is to look after skilled jobs in this country. They get their theoretical economic books out. They look at the economic theory and say, 'This is how the theory works,' and they do not give a damn about ordinary Australians. They do not give a damn about how Australians live. They do not give a damn about how they survive. You only have to look at their budget, where they hammer the aged, where they hammer seniors and where they come after those who cannot look after themselves. It is the poor who take the belting. We do not support this bill because ordinary Australian will suffer the consequences. We will oppose it all the way. I hope those on the crossbenches and the other parties support Labor maintaining Qantas in Australian hands.</p>
  • <p class='motion-notice motion-notice-truncated'>Long debate text truncated.</p>