Nov 29, 2013

Doorstop Interview

SHANGRI-LA HOTEL, SYDNEY

Subjects: Qantas; ADM 

REPORTER:  Qantas has asked Commonwealth guarantee on its debts, is that something you’d consider supporting?

ALBANESE:   What we’ve said about the Qantas issue and we’ve said this in Government, is that it is an important Australian airline. A national carrier plays an important role beyond just another company. A national carrier is important for security reasons and the economy, but also when issues have arisen when Australians needed assistance in places like the Middle East, Qantas has been able to assist, and that’s important too.

So there’s a reason why national governments make sure that they have airlines that are owned by the country they’re from, whether they be government owned or private sector owned. The international aviation system also relies upon air services agreements. They’re done from government to government. And there would be real implications were Qantas to become a foreign owned airline.

So Labor’s position is clear. Qantas is an iconic Australian airline. Qantas must remain in majority Australian hands and we do not support changes to the Qantas Sale Act which would diminish that Australian ownership requirement.

With regard to support for other measures that might be needed, we’d be prepared to consider any proposal that the government has in a constructive way. I’ve said in the past that the government should consider measures such taking a small equity position in the airline in order to signal to markets that this isn’t a company that is just like any other in Australia.

That is how some other governments have responded to these issues and if the government was to approach the opposition we would be constructive. But it’s really up to the Government to come up with a proposition and then approach the Labor Party.

REPORTER:  Qantas wants urgent action on this, do you think a guarantee could be given urgently?

ALBANESE:   Well there’s no reason why the government can’t take action on this. They should give it full consideration.  We were asked prior to the election to provide some assurances or a statement before the credit agencies and certainly the government at the time and myself as a minister made it clear what our position was. The government needs to come up with a position – they’re the government – and we’ll consider it on its merits.

REPORTER:  Do you agree with Qantas that urgent action is needed? 

Certainly it’s the case that Qantas are saying that they would action to occur sooner rather than later, but if the decision is going to be made in a months’ time or two months’ time there’s no reason why it can’t be made in a week’s time.

REPORTER:  In regards to infrastructure investment do you think the government should fund the infrastructure that was promised as part of the ADM bid?

ALBANESE: I’m not familiar with all of that, it’s not my portfolio area and I believe the appropriate spokesperson will respond to the details.

REPORTER:  It was regarding rail infrastructure –   

ALBANESE:   They’ll respond to the details of that. I’m not in a position to, having been travelling today and at this conference. What I know is in terms of the responsibility for this area, it is Joel Fitzgibbon and I’d be surprised if he hasn’t responded today.