House debates

Monday, 7 December 2020

Questions without Notice

Workplace Relations

3:04 pm

Photo of Ms Catherine KingMs Catherine King (Ballarat, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development. Since March the government has allowed Virgin to fall into administration, costing 3,000 jobs; denied JobKeeper to 5,000 dnata workers and workers at council owned airports; and sat back while Qantas has sacked 8½ thousand workers. What more will it take for the government to finally come up with a plan for aviation?

3:05 pm

Photo of Michael McCormackMichael McCormack (Riverina, National Party, Leader of the Nationals) Share this | | Hansard source

As I said in my previous answer, this is a global pandemic and it has hit the aviation sector, not just here in Australia but right across the world, extremely hard. Some airline companies are now no longer flying, and there's the prospect that they will never fly again. Fortunately in Australia we now have a situation with two viable airlines flying, and they are Virgin and Qantas.

The member who asked the question asked about Virgin. Virgin came into the global pandemic saddled with around $5 billion of debt, so they were always going to need to restructure and refinance. But, thanks to the assistance that we've provided, as well as good management and a situation where we gave them every confidence and optimism and opportunity to look to the future, they were able to recapitalise and restructure. We thank Bain Capital and we look to them into the future, because they have made a lifeline there for the company which has kept them flying. We thank Paul Scurrah for his management. We thank Jayne Hrdlicka for having the optimism to take that company forward. Just last week I had a very good meeting with her. She sees that there are blue skies and tailwinds ahead for the company. We want to see Virgin in the air and we want to see them taking on board more routes and more workers, and we will work closely with them to ensure that that happens.

The shadow minister for transport mentioned Qantas, and yes, it is tough for those Qantas workers who have been laid off. But the situation is such that other businesses, too, have laid off workers. Fortunately, thanks to the JobKeeper assistance that we've provided, that has provided connectivity with workers. The assistance that we've provided across all industries, across all sectors, has helped businesses re-engage, and so many workers who were laid off earlier in the year are now getting their jobs back and returning to the workforce. Sometimes it's with the companies they worked for previously and sometimes it's in a new endeavour. With the apprenticeships, skills programs and subsidies we're putting in place, we're making sure that some people can reskill and look to the future.

The shadow minister also mentioned dnata. Well, it is a foreign owned company, owned by Emirates and—

Photo of Mr Tony BurkeMr Tony Burke (Watson, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for the Arts) Share this | | Hansard source

But the workers are Australian!

Photo of Michael McCormackMichael McCormack (Riverina, National Party, Leader of the Nationals) Share this | | Hansard source

I appreciate that. I can hear you loud and clear right from here, thanks. You could have just said it; you didn't need to yell it at me. We have certainly done things for Australian workers right across the board, and we'll go on doing things right across the board. But a message to the member for Watson: it is a global pandemic and these are tough times, and I'd thank you to be aware that we're acting in a responsible way. (Time expired)