Senate debates

Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Qantas Sale (Keep Jetstar Australian) Amendment Bill 2007

Second Reading

3:35 pm

Photo of Steve FieldingSteve Fielding (Victoria, Family First Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—

Family First believes it is a huge concern that there is nothing to prevent Jetstar being sold off to overseas buyers, and jobs and operations being sent offshore, if the Qantas takeover succeeds.

Securing Australian jobs for workers and their families is Family First’s top priority.

That is why Family First is introducing legislation today to protect Jetstar from foreign ownership and help stop jobs and operations from going offshore.

Earlier this month, the government admitted there was a loophole in the Qantas Sale Act 1992 which means the legislation does not apply to Qantas subsidiaries like Jetstar.

The Treasurer has subsequently confirmed that Jetstar is not subject to the Qantas Sale Act 1992, but despite this, it appears the government will do nothing about it.

That is not good enough.

Qantas has made huge profits through its budget carrier Jetstar and plans to further drive down costs, particularly labour costs, to reap even bigger returns.

The easier way to do that is to send jobs and operations offshore where labour costs are cheaper.

Michael Ryan, a pioneer of low-cost air travel with Ryanair, was recently asked his thoughts about Qantas and Jetstar and told the Bulletin: ‘I imagine what they [Qantas] are trying to do is put as many of Qantas’ routes into Jetstar [as possible].’

Cutting costs to the bone might deliver huge profits but the livelihoods of Australian workers and their families must not be sacrificed in the process.

The Australian and International Pilots Association shares Family First’s concern and yesterday took the matter to the Federal Court, arguing the legislation should apply to Qantas subsidiaries and calling for clarification.

However, we should not leave it to the courts to clear up this situation.

Family First believes this is an important matter the Australian Parliament must clarify.

There are media reports that some government MPs also share Family First’s concern that there is nothing to prevent Jetstar being sold off and jobs and operations being sent offshore.

If these senators and members are genuinely concerned, Family First hopes that is reflected by these senators and members supporting our efforts to close this loophole.

Will these government MPs act to protect workers and their families from seeing their jobs disappear overseas?

Will they support Family First’s commonsense bill to give workers and their families a fair go? Or will they abandon workers and their families?

As previously mentioned, the growth of the airline industry has been in low-cost carriers and Qantas has reaped huge profits by transferring its routes to the much leaner Jetstar, which already flies to New Zealand, Japan, Bali, Thailand and Hawaii.

Most of the 70 new planes Qantas has ordered will go straight into Jetstar which will move more into Asian markets and reportedly plans to consider flying to Europe and the US east coast.

There is sufficient cause to be alarmed, particularly considering that, late last year, there was a cloud over 460 heavy maintenance jobs at Melbourne Airport.

Furthermore, last March, 480 heavy maintenance jobs were lost in Sydney when Qantas shut that operation.

Family First wonders what will happen to Jetstar workers and their families who do not have the protection of the Qantas Sale Act 1992?

As I said at the outset, securing Australian jobs for workers and their families is Family First’s top priority.

That is why Family First is introducing this legislation to amend the Qantas Sale Act and ensure the restrictions that apply to Qantas—including rules about maintenance, training and administration—also apply to Jetstar and other Qantas subsidiaries.

I commend the bill to the Senate.

I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.