Bill's Transcripts



SUBJECT/S: Giving Day at Eastwood Shopping Centre; Qantas; Holden
BILL SHORTEN: It is great to be here today on a bipartisan basis with representatives of the government, celebrating a remarkable $1 million gift by the proprietors and owners of the Eastwood Shopping Centre. A $1 million gift to the Children’s Medical Research Institute.
Any family who has had a sick child at Christmas knows how important medical research is so it is a great gift, at Christmas, a million dollars to help the incredibly important work of making sure that our children get the best chance in life to grow up healthy and into adults. I am happy to take questions.
REPORTER: What do you make of the Prime Minister’s comments on Qantas bid to have restrictions lifted?
BILL SHORTEN: There is the Abbott Government at it again. Before the election they were all about jobs, now they’re raising thought bubbles which could lead to the possible break up of Qantas.
What is important in terms of having a debate about aviation policy, which is important, 1. is certainty. It’s not just markets who need certainty, its people. 35,000 employees at Qantas need certainty; markets need certainty about government policy. It is important we have a national airline, a national aviation carrier.
It’s also important that we don’t see the break-up of the Qantas airline and it is really important that government, doesn’t matter if it’s Labor or Liberal, do everything they can to support and keep jobs, not wave good bye to jobs overseas.
REPORTER: Is your position that there should be no change to the Qantas Sale Act?
BILL SHORTEN: I certainly believe that it’s important that we have aviation competition in this country but I also believe it’s important to have a national airline.
Qantas is important, to step into the breach, in times of trouble when Australians have got into difficulties overseas.
Qantas has been part of brand Australia, just as our sports people and athletes represent Australia on the international stage, so does the flying Kangaroo.
Surely, this government has a better idea in terms of us supporting our aviation industry than green lighting the possible break up of Qantas by a change of ownership.
Also, there are tens of thousands of jobs with Qantas. At the end of the day, what’s really important is that Australia’s a country where we’re growing jobs and keeping jobs, that we don’t see the break-up of our world class maintenance facilities to go overseas.
REPORTER: Can’t you change the Act but keep the restrictions, in terms of easing restrictions on foreign ownership but keep in place the demand that labour doesn’t go offshore?
BILL SHORTEN: Well the Government found it too hard to deal with the GrainCorp international take-over, they thought they couldn’t put conditions on that.
What’s important is that we have steady and sensible policy about our aviation future.
What’s important is that we work with Qantas and what’s important is that we preserve Australian jobs and keep the national aviation carrier.
What is not needed is the Government building policy on the back of thought bubbles, selective drops to newspapers, creating uncertainty at Christmas time.
It doesn’t matter if you’re an investor or if you’re an employee at Qantas, what you want is certainty. I wish the Government would stop creating uncertainty at the end of its first 100 days and instead provide sensible, well thought out, pro-jobs policies for all Australians.
REPORTER: What about the specific issue of foreign ownership – should Qantas always be majority Australian owned?
BILL SHORTEN: I believe that the Qantas Sale Act does not need to be changed at this point. The only people who would from overseas most likely to purchase an Australian airline would be a foreign airline and many of them are government run. So what we see is a situation where the Government is flying a kite to see something which could lead to the possible ownership of our national aviation carrier by another government and indeed most seriously the possible break up of Qantas services. We have 5000 skilled maintenance workforce , 35,000 who work at Qantas. Qantas is not just another day at the office, and this policy shouldn’t be made on the run.
REPORTER: What should happen because clearly the status quo is unsustainable, something needs to be done?
BILL SHORTEN: Certainly but I understand the company is looking at a range of options. I don’t think the default option of an Australian Government should be to sell off jobs, and businesses without looking at all of the options first.
REPORTER: What about providing a government guarantee?
BILL SHORTEN: To begin with, this is a government challenge. I have said in the past and I reiterate the invitation again at Christmas time to Mr Abbott. Labor is happy to work with the Government to make sure we have competitive aviation policy but we also look to what are the best means of preserving jobs and a national airline carrier.
On something as important as aviation policy, we need to be bipartisan and work together, not just simply fly the kite that we should sell the national economic silverware overseas.
REPORTER: Given what’s happened to Holden this week, do you think it is a very real possibility the same thing could happen at Qantas?
BILL SHORTEN: We saw the Government just surrender on Holden. Holden used to mean a motorcar, now it’s the sign of the Abbott Government selling jobs off overseas.
The Holden decision, in my opinion, was avoidable.
What we’ve got at the moment is a government in Canberra who thinks the world is too hard a place to compete, that Aussie cars or Aussie airlines can’t compete.
What we need in Australia in 2014 is a sensible debate and we need to rule a line in the sand. Australia should have a car manufacturing industry. Australia should have a national airline.
And if the Abbott Government has surrendered on Australia thinking it can compete with the rest of the world, I think they should come clean and tell people. This is not the government they told people they would be before the election. Thanks everyone.
REPORTER: So you would prefer an Australian government to own a bit of Qantas than a foreign government?
BILL SHORTEN: Australia is an island a long way from a lot of other places. We need a national carrier. I don’t doubt that Qantas has got its challenges. We need to make sure we’ve got a competitive aviation industry.
But I don’t believe that the future of Australian aviation involves automatically breaking up the national airline carrier – letting a national airline carrier be sold off and owned by other governments in the world.
And also, it is all about the jobs.
At the end of the day let’s look after the jobs, let’s keep jobs onshore.
We shouldn’t see car engineering jobs going overseas and we shouldn’t see airline maintenance jobs going overseas.
It is now time for the Australian Government to fight for Australian jobs rather than simply say, the world is too hard to compete with and we should just give up and go home. Thanks very much everyone and have a lovely Christmas.