Bill's Speeches

Speech to Parliament - QANTAS Jobs








This is a most important national debate. For all those Australians who are listening, thinking at last this parliament is having an argument about the future of Qantas and the future of aviation jobs, please be advised that the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the Deputy Prime Minister—the people who are advocating the sale of Qantas to foreign interests—have walked out of the chamber. So this is the quality of government we have in Australia. They will not be accountable in the Parliament of Australia to debate the jobs.


The real shame of this debate about aviation jobs is that the Prime Minister and his team have created only one export industry in Australia since getting elected—and that is the export of Australian jobs overseas. It is not good enough for a government of Australia of whatsoever politics to advocate the dismantling of Australia's national carrier. It is not good enough to tell thousands of Qantas employees that the only plan the government has is you are out of work.


It is not good enough for the government to tell the flight attendants, pilots, the flight engineers, the licensed aviation maintenance engineers and the cleaners that the only plan we have for you is that your job will go overseas. Next time the government flies in a very safe Qantas plane and are served by very professional staff and see the not very well paid cleaners queuing up on the aerobridge to clean up their mess on the plane, I hope they have at least the courage—because they do not have the courage to be here in the parliament—to say: 'Actually, we don't care about you. We don't care about your jobs. We've run out of ideas, except ship them overseas.'


This is a government who is in live with Orwellian language. They love that language. They said about the car workers, 'You have been liberated'—that means you're unemployed. They have said about Qantas, 'We will free you from your shackles.' Obviously the Prime Minister picked up the word freedom at Mandela's funeral, but he has not understood that there is no freedom in unemployment. There is no freedom in not fighting for Australian jobs.


What we see here is that there is no freedom in dismantling the skills of the aviation maintenance industry. There is no freedom in telling flight crews of the international business that they are probably better off getting a job in the Gulf or in Asia, because we are not going to fight to keep your job here. I for one am grateful—


Mr Whiteley interjecting


SHORTEN: You can have your crack, sunshine. Your leader’s not even here. Why do you not observe the rules. What we say—


Mr Whiteley interjecting


SHORTEN: Sunshine, you will get your go. Why don't we say to every pilot in Australia—they have spent decades training; they have done the courses; their families have done without them: we do not want you here. I know what happened after and sets. Thousands of people had to move overseas. Yes, it is a good thing that Virgin is in Australia, but remember the family had Ansett and Qantas we had thousands more jobs than we do now. I know what happens when you start dismantling an airline. You start downgrade and skills and quality of Australian aviation. Australian aviation served us through two world wars. Australian aviation has served us in helping to get Australians out of Beirut and get people out of Bangkok. I loathe the false patriotism of those people opposite, who say, 'We're trying to free Qantas.' No, you're not. You are trying to kill Qantas.


Let us look at the arguments that those opposite are using. They have never seen an argument they cannot turn on its head, that black is not white and white is not black. They say they are doing Qantas a favour. Qantas does not want your favours. It wanted you to do what you said two or three months ago—give it a debt guarantee. Let us have a look at the cynical, dithering, deceitful conduct we have seen in the last three years from this government.


First of all, they tried to blame carbon. They said carbon is to blame. Then last night, somewhat annoyingly, Qantas said, 'Carbon is not the issue.' Is there no shame in those opposite? Even after Qantas said carbon is not the issue these people still believe that if they stick with the big lie long enough people will swallow it. No, they won't. Not this time they won't.


They have also tried to say that they are not into chequebook support. Tell that to Cadbury. Why is it that chocolate is a preferred Liberal industry but airlines are not? What is that chocolate has of aviation does not. What an inconsistent bunch of roosters you are. Inconsistency is your watchword.


But if we want to talk about the cynicism of those opposite we should talk about this lie about the Qantas Sale Act. They say that if you get rid of part three of the Qantas Sale Act it will all be happy days and blue skies and planes flying. No, it won't. I have started to work through what happens if the Coalition get through their job-killing propositions. First of all, Qantas will have to get another air-operating certificate. Each business has to have one.


They have one now; they would have to get a second air operating certificate. That will take a year. Oh my goodness, we have wasted three months. But these brain surgeons opposite are going to take another year. Then of course you have got to demerge the business—did not think about that, did they? The merger of TAA and Qantas in 1996 took one year. Do they think that in Abbott-land you can click your fingers and get a pair of scissors and and free Qantas from the shackles and that they will in fact demerge in less than a year? It will take a year. In the meantime, Qantas struggles.


A government member: Calm down!


SHORTEN: Calm down, he says! You are killing the jobs. You should be more excited about it. Let us look at what else will take time. The employees—did I mention that magic word that never passes the lips of the Liberals? What about the employees? About 25,000 to 30,000 people working at Qantas. When you split the airline in two according to your great plan you will have 10,000-plus will have to be transferred to the new business.


Have you thought about how you will do that? Have you thought about the redundancies? Of course you haven't thought about them. What a silly question. Then you are going to have to take 10,000-plus employees and reemploy them. You are going to put them on the same terms, you going to make them redundant?


Mr Sukkar interjecting


SHORTEN: You haven't thought about a thing, Member for Deakin; not for some time! Furthermore, we then have a look at what else we will do. Let us say that we have spent our year demerging. We have got the air-operating certificate. We have worked out who owns the aeroplanes. We have handled the employees on this great idea to sell the business overseas. Who is going to buy it? The obvious buyers in the industry are from the Middle East or China. They will have to go through a Foreign Investment Review Board process. That will take up to two years.


Ms Scott interjecting


SHORTEN: It is not a conspiracy; it is just a fact, Member for Lindsay. It is going to take up to 2 years to get some and put in some foreign capital under this great rush of blood to the head that the Abbott Cabinet had last night. Imagine that Foreign Investment Review Board process. You lot do not fill me with a lot of confidence when it comes to the Foreign Investment Review Board. If you panicked on GrainCorp, Qantas is grain call on steroids. You will not have the ticker to do it.


You are proposing as a solution to Qantas to go down a path that will take up to two years to complete and at the end we all have fewer jobs and no doubt, knowing this government in an election year, you will panic when you have a look at who is buying it. Indeed, the reason I am so confident that you will panic, other than GrainCorp? Warren Truss, the well-known luminary, intellectual think of the Coalition said, 'If one foreign investor has gotten 49 per cent of the airline then its strategic policy is likely to change’.


The attitude of its board would change. We could therefore not be confident anymore that Qantas would put the interests of Australia first. Warren Truss is proof that even a stopped clock is right twice a day. He is correct. He could not be confident of putting Australia's interests first. There you have it, people of Australia, ladies and gentlemen, we have a government that is proposing a plan which will send thousands of jobs offshore, which has been the product of some cynical blame-everyone-else-except buying a mirror and looking at the real problem, and it has been about a plan which has clearly got more holes in it than Swiss cheese.


Then we get to what I think the real issue of this issue is. They want to turn the spirit of Australia into the ghost of Australia. They are saying, 'Here's another company where we won't fight for jobs.' Listen to the roll call: Holden, Toyota, Alcoa, Electrolux, Gove, Qantas. How dare they pretend to be interested in Australian jobs. They have not fought for any jobs. When will it end?


The problem with the government is that they are zealots—they are extremists. They have never seen an Aussie job they will fight for. The world is too hard. They tell us about level playing fields, but world aviation is not a level playing field. Most aviation businesses in the world have government support. We have these single-minded extremists who will never fight for a job in Australia, so will the last Abbott government minister on the last job turn the lights out. They will not fight for jobs, they will not stand up for Australian aviation, they know that they have taken too long to get to this point and they know their solution is about politics, it is not about jobs. Shame!