Wednesday, 5 March 2014
Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee; Reference
I seek leave to amend notice of motion No. 4, in the terms circulated in the chamber, standing in my and Senator Xenophon's name proposing a reference to the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee relating to government support for Qantas.
I move the motion as amended:
(1) That the following matter be referred to the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee for inquiry and report by 27 March 2014:
Supporting Qantas and Australian jobs, with particular reference to what initiatives should be taken by the Government and the Parliament to ensure Qantas remains a strong national carrier supporting aviation jobs in Australia, including:
(a) a debt guarantee;
(b) an equity stake;
(c) other forms of support consistent with wider policy settings; and
(d) any conditions which should be attached to these.
(2) That, in considering the merits of the above, the committee should investigate:
(a) any national security, skills, marketing, tourism, emergency assistance or other benefits provided by an Australian-owned Qantas;
(b) the level and forms of government support received by other international airlines operating to and from Australia;
(c) the ownership structures of other international airlines operating to and from Australia;
(d) the potential impact on Australian jobs arising from the Government’s plan to repeal Part 3 of the Qantas Sale Act 1992;
(e) the direct costs on Australian-domiciled air carriers, including airport charges and depreciation allowances, compared to foreign-based competitors; and
(f) any related matters.
Labor strongly supports an Australian owned Qantas. Labor is talking to Senators Rhiannon and Xenophon on terms of reference on the matter of the future of Qantas and Australian jobs and we hope to agree a reference shortly.
The Greens did propose this inquiry last weekend and we have been working with Senator Xenophon and Labor to negotiate on the terms of reference. There has been an absolute willingness to ensure that we are able to bring forward an inquiry that would look at ways to protect Qantas and to give that support in terms of retaining it as a national carrier and retaining jobs in Australia. It has been disappointing that Labor has been unwilling to call senior Qantas managers, including Mr Joyce—but, again, the Greens have said that it is very important to get up this inquiry even if it is limited in the way that Labor has indicated. We will continue to endeavour to get this inquiry in place tomorrow. It is critical that this inquiry goes ahead because this is where the work of the Senate can come forward in terms of learning the lessons from the current mismanagement and chart a way forward for a healthy national carrier.
I raise the same matter I have raised before: as a member of this committee I know that the committee is fully engaged currently on inquiries into chemicals, into beef levies, into beehives and into a number of other issues of great importance to Australia—and committee members simply do not have the time to address this as well. I know what the outcome of this inquiry will be, because Labor and the Greens have already announced their positions in relation to Qantas. So we are going to go through the whole process of having an inquiry to come up with what Labor and the Greens have already announced is their view of Qantas. It seems to me to be just another waste of the very valuable time of the Senate and senators.
I indicate that, notwithstanding what Senator Macdonald has said, I have faith not only in the secretariat and in the committee but also in the members of the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee to look at these issues. It is important to ensure that the future of Qantas is examined very closely. This is an opportunity to do so—
I think it is fair to say, to respond to Senator Macdonald, that because there is a Qantas Sale Act and Qantas has sought a debt guarantee from taxpayers, these are legitimate matters that ought to be looked at in a Senate inquiry. That is why I think it is important that we deal with this: because of the critical juncture that Qantas is at.