Bill's Speeches





FRIDAY, 18 JULY 2014




Madam Speaker

I to rise to speak in support of the amendment to the Qantas Sales Amendment Bill 2014.

I do so against the backdrop of a terrible tragedy.

Today’s bewildering news hangs over our Parliament – and it envelopes our world.

All of us are still adjusting to this wild, tyrannical act – and its horrific consequences.

298 lives – including 27 Australians – lost in the most unspeakable circumstances.

Our hearts go out to the family and friends of these people.

No words can capture the depth of our sorrow, nothing we can say will lighten the burden of your grief.

Today is not a day for playing politics.

Today is not the day for division, or some of the adversarial clashes we’ve seen in this Parliament when it comes to the future of Qantas, our national carrier.

Today is the day to recognise that despite the differences in our views, despite the different values we hold, this parliament does have the capacity to build consensus on the challenges facing our country.

There is no doubt that the future of Qantas is one of those big important issues.

The Qantas story is a remarkable story – remarkable in itself, but even more remarkable about how it’s intertwined with Australia’s own story.

In 1920, two World War One pilots, Paul McGinness, W Hudson Fysh, their aircraft mechanic Arthur Baird and business partner Fergus McMaster started Qantas in Longreach, Queensland.

Their fleet consisted of two bi-planes, one of which I understand was purchased for the princely sum of 450 pounds from a local stockman.

They had two planes and one dream - the dream to start Australia’s first air service.

And the very next year, with their first mail flight from Charleville to Cloncurry, Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services, Qantas, was born.

94 years on, there are few things more Australian than the flying kangaroo.

Those two planes are now a fleet of 140 aircraft.

Those four Qantas employees now number around 30,000.

Highly skilled and dedicated men and women, who repair and maintain aircraft, look after thousands of passengers and keep the planes running on time.

For Australians, Qantas is more than just an airline.

It is an icon.

It is Australia.

That’s why I am pleased the Government has agreed to the Opposition’s proposal to keep Qantas majority Australian owned.

Our country could not afford to see our national carrier go offshore.

We could not afford for thousands of these jobs to go overseas.

The Bill we consider today ensures some important things:

  • Qantas must be majority Australian owned.

  • Qantas head office always be located in Australia.

  • Two thirds of the Qantas Board will remain Australian.

  • The bulk of Qantas facilities and services must remain located in Australia, that maintenance operations and aircraft housing facilities remain in Australia.

  • And critically, Labor’s amendments will ensure that Qantas jobs will be kept in Australia.

There will be sensible changes to investment rules in the act:

  • Removing the 25% share ownership cap on a single foreign investor

  • And the 35% share ownership cap on foreign airlines.

This will help Qantas access new sources of investment - investment that can be used to purchase new planes for its fleet, or to open routes into profitable new markets.

Madam Speaker, I am proud that this Parliament has been able to reach this consensus.

Indeed, we can all be proud.

We can be proud that MPs and Senators on both sides of the debate have been able to come to this agreement.

We can be proud that when it matters – on a significant issue like the future of Australia’s national carrier – our Parliament has the sense to agree to fair and reasonable changes like this.

This how the big questions get answered Madam Speaker.

This is how the key problems get solved.

Labor and Liberal and National – working in good faith and working together on matters of national importance.

Today, with this vote, we guarantee that Qantas has a bright future as well as a proud past.

By our actions, we ensure that Australia’s Flying Kangaroo will continue to bound across the skies of the world – for generations to come.

Long may it be so.

I commend the bill to the house.