Question Time – Qantas
Mr TRUSS (Wide Bay—Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development) (14:17): I thank the honourable member for Hinkler for his question. There has certainly been a lot of talk over recent days about options for Qantas. But only the government’s proposal to repeal part 3 of the Qantas Sale Act will give Qantas and the aviation industry the level playing field that it has asked for and is essential for its future prosperity. What we have heard from opposition repeatedly is talk about how any kind of increased level of foreign ownership will lead to lost Australian jobs. The honourable member for Hinkler’s electorate is one of those that is benefiting now from the competition of having Virgin and Qantas flights servicing places like Bundaberg and Hervey Bay. The Virgin domestic arm is majority foreign-owned, and yet I have noticed that Bundaberg and Hervey Bay—
Mr Thistlethwaite interjecting—
The SPEAKER: The member for Kingsford Smith should remember I will have a plan B for him in a moment.
Mr TRUSS: I have not noticed any pilots or crew coming in from Abu Dhabi or Singapore or even Auckland. These are the jobs that have been created because Virgin flights are coming to Bundaberg and Hervey Bay; they are Australian jobs. When Qantas is able to have a degree of foreign ownership in its domestic arm, those jobs in Australia will still be Australian jobs. This is because it is not practical to run a domestic airline with staff who are flown in from other parts of the world. It would be against our laws. Of course, you could not be efficient and competitive unless you were actually employing Australian people.
The reality is that these airlines that have had some foreign ownership have made an enormous contribution to Australian aviation. Remember what happened at the time of the Ansett collapse and Hazelton and Kendell were essentially grounded. Well it was a foreign investor, Lim Kim Hai, who came in from Singapore, created Rex and resurrected services to so many regional communities. It was a 100 per cent foreign owned airline. Now Rex employs 1,000 Australians, many in regional communities. Their flight crews, their pilots are all Australian. They are training pilots in Australia in their own academy. The reality is that some of these airlines with foreign shareholdings have an enormous commitment to Australia. They have been prepared to back this country. The Rex partners lost a lot of money getting their airline up and running. It has been to the benefit of this country. The reality is that we can invest. We can have a prosperous aviation industry in Australia. We just need to give it the liberty to be able to achieve the very best possible destiny for itself and for the Australian staff it employs.