Bill's Transcripts




730, ABC




SUBJECT/S: Qantas jobs


LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: We invited Alan Joyce to join the program tonight. He declined. Instead, the Opposition Leader Bill Shorten spoke to me a short time ago from Canberra.

Bill Shorten, thanks for your time.


LEIGH SALES: Alan Joyce says he called you, Tony Abbott and Warren Truss this morning. What did he have to say to you?

BILL SHORTEN: Alan Joyce gave me the very concerning news that due to their profit downgrades and challenges for Qantas, that there would be 1,000 people who currently work at Qantas who would part ways with the company over the next 12 months. That was the big issue for me: jobs.

LEIGH SALES: Was he asking for any particular assistance from you?

BILL SHORTEN: No, he didn't ask for anything in particular. He knows that Qantas is an iconic public brand. It's a national airline in Australia. He knows that whatever Qantas does, the public will have a view and so he was treating the Opposition with some courtesy.

LEIGH SALES: Do you have confidence in Alan Joyce's management of Qantas?

BILL SHORTEN: I think at this point he has a hard job to do and I think he and his team are trying to work through the issues to the best of their capacity to do so. Aviation is a turbulent industry. For me today the news is about hundreds of people, perhaps even some I might have worked with before I came into Parliament, who will have to go home tonight, perhaps even as this show is on; children will be asking their parents, "Mum or dad, do you have a job?" I think that Qantas has got challenges and it's not an issue - because aviation's so important - which politics can ignore and the Parliament can ignore.

LEIGH SALES: You didn't specifically answer whether you have confidence in Alan Joyce's leadership?

BILL SHORTEN: Oh, I do. Yes, I do.

LEIGH SALES: Do you accept, as Mr Joyce argues, that it is an un-level playing field, that Virgin as an unfair advantage and that there should be a review of the Qantas Sale Act?

BILL SHORTEN: I don't accept that the Qantas Sale Act, changing that's going to be the solution. I think it is important that Qantas remains in majority Australian hands, as does Labor. But I do respect that there are some points that Qantas are making which are important. They need to raise capital, they need to refurbish their fleet. So I accept that there are legitimate issues that Qantas are grappling with. But I also think in the short term there are legitimate issues for the Abbott Government to come to terms with, which include what sort of support is going to be available to longstanding workers who are highly skilled who are losing their jobs through no fault of their own.

LEIGH SALES: In Question Time today, the Environment Minister Greg Hunt pointed out that Qantas' carbon tax bill for last year was $106 million. Given that would have contributed to the company's losses, how can you say that's not linked to the decision to axe 1,000 jobs?

BILL SHORTEN: I thought that the Abbott Government trying to blame these job losses on carbon was pathetic. I specifically asked Alan Joyce in my phone conversation with him, "Is any of this linked to any debates about carbon?" He said, "No." So I can only assume that the Government knew that and chose to politicise these job losses. If they didn't know that, well then they shouldn't talk without knowing the facts.


Let's be very clear: this is a sad day because you've got hundreds of people wondering about will they have work, what happens to them? They don't need unhelpful political point-scoring from people who are paid to know better and so I thought that was a bit of a low point in Parliament today. What we want to hear in Parliament is what the Government's going to do in terms of helping these workers in the short term, and in the long term. What is the Government's aviation policy? We saw Treasurer Hockey let up a thought bubble. I don't know if - has the Government got an aviation policy? What are they going to do here? And we're willing to work with them if they choose to be bipartisan.

LEIGH SALES: On that point, the Treasurer, Mr Hockey, has previously called for debate about what the role of Australia's national carrier should be and if we need one. What's Labor's view on that?

BILL SHORTEN: Well, we would work with the Government. This government came into power by being very negative and not working with the government of the day. That's one way to handle politics. I say here on your show, Leigh, that the Labor Opposition's willing to sit down, not through thought bubbles and newspaper columns or lunchtime conversations that the Treasurer may have with some business friends; let's talk about what we need to do to ensure that we have a national carrier. I think it is important that in times of national emergency, where you've got to evacuate Australians in a hurry that an airline like Qantas does exist. So I think there is a case for having majority Australian ownership in an Australian airline, but it's also got to make a profit and let's work through the issues that allow that to occur.

LEIGH SALES: If you want a major Australian stake in Qantas, do you think that the Federal Government should return to owning a stake in the airline?

BILL SHORTEN: That is one option I've seen raised. I think before we get to an argument about, I don't know, the Liberal government buying Qantas back, I think there's some way to travel before we get to that debate. I think what is necessary is that, first of all, the Federal Government, one, put in place a support package for these skilled workers, and two, that they reach out across the parliamentary divide. Here I am, the Leader of the Opposition saying to the government of the day: Qantas is an important icon; the jobs that it has are really important. Let's work together to work out an aviation policy approach and that's what I think Australians want from their political leaders.

LEIGH SALES: Bill Shorten, thank you.

BILL SHORTEN: Good evening, Leigh.