Thursday, 6 March 2014
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Prime Minister of Australia, who I am sure is proud of the enviable safety record of Qantas, the world's safest airline. Does the Prime Minister accept that the enviable safety record of Qantas is in no small part due to the professionalism, the hard work, the commitment and the expertise of its Australian based maintenance crews?
I absolutely accept that Qantas has a fine safety record, perhaps the best safety record in the world. Obviously I am very grateful to the workers who are responsible for that. I am proud of them, as I am proud of Qantas. But Virgin is a safe airline as well. Is the Leader of the Opposition suggesting to this House that Qantas is safe and other airlines are not? What is the Leader of the Opposition suggesting here? Is he suggesting that the Qantas Sale Act is somehow responsible for Qantas's safety? Is that what the Leader of the Opposition is suggesting?
The Leader of the Opposition is trying to suggest that it is the Qantas Sale Act that is responsible for the Qantas safety record. The Leader of the Opposition is trying to suggest that without the restrictions that exist under the Qantas Sale Act an airline cannot be safe. This is a most reckless and irresponsible suggestion from the Leader of the Opposition. Qantas is safe. I am proud of Qantas. I am proud of the workers. Virgin is safe. I am equally—
The member will resume his seat. Has the Prime Minister finished his answer? We had the Leader of the Opposition attempting a point of relevance. We can only have a question.
Mr Shorten interjecting—
We do not have guidance under standing orders. It was a good intervention. It was a good try. The Prime Minister has indicated he wishes to continue his answer. He will direct his remarks to the question.
In this country we are blessed with two outstanding airlines: Qantas and Virgin. They both have outstanding safety records—and Rex, also a great airline with a great safety record. The point I wish to make is that Qantas's safety record does not depend upon the Qantas Sale Act, and it is reckless of the Leader of the Opposition to suggest that it does.
My question is to the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development: will the minister outline to the House what impact the passage of the Qantas Sale Amendment Bill will have on regional areas?
I thank the honourable member for his question. The reality is that the future of aviation in Australia is strong. This is a country that is well suited to aviation. It is a large country with our population concentrated in large urban areas. We have comparatively safe flying conditions and, obviously, as a nation an excellent safety record in aviation.
Sydney-Melbourne, Sydney-Brisbane and Brisbane-Melbourne are all in the top 20 busiest routes in the world, so there is enormous potential for aviation to prosper in this country. But it does need to work in an environment which is supportive, which encourages investment and which gives the airlines the opportunity to provide the best possible services in the most economical way.
Costs are high in Australia, and some of those costs are unavoidable but others are not. We do not need to have a carbon tax added to the cost of everything that we do. We do not need to have a mining tax, which in fact discourages mining investment and therefore limits the capacity of one of the biggest growth areas, particularly regional aviation fly in, fly out services. But we do have excellent regional air services, and most of those air services are conducted by companies which have a level of foreign ownership.
Skywest was foreign owned by Singaporeans for a considerable period of time until it was taken over by Virgin. Virgin itself has a level of foreign ownership. Rex has a strong level of foreign ownership, and for that matter there is a 40 per cent ownership of Qantas. All of those airlines are operating with an excellent safety record and providing excellent services to Australians. They all employ thousands of Australians. They do not send their aircraft overseas for day-to-day servicing. They do not in fact bring people in from other parts of the world to operate these services.
The reality is these airlines exist because they are providing services to regional Australia and our capital cities. They are Australian in the way in which they deliver services to the best possible standards. Many of them are globally award-winning airlines and they do it by being Australian and serving our country.
What we must do now as a parliament is to give them the best possible opportunity to trade profitably in the future and the support to repeal part 3 of the Qantas Sale Act will be a substantial step in that direction.