Oct 31, 2011

Question without notice – Qantas

Mr TRUSS (Wide Bay—Leader of The Nationals) (14:50): My question is to the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport. On how many occasions prior to 2 pm on Saturday did Qantas advise the minister that, if industrial unrest continued, it may have to ground its fleet?

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Leader of the House and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (14:51): I thank the honourable member for his maiden question on aviation in 4½ years—I thank him sincerely. If the shadow minister had access to Sky, he would know that I have indicated very clearly that this morning, after Mr Joyce gave an interview with Fran Kelly, I rang Mr Joyce and informed him that I would be making public the fact that on no occasion had Qantas ever raised the issue of a lockout of its workforce—

Honourable members interjecting —

The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Sturt will resume his seat. The member for Lyons, the member for Dawson—order!

Mr ALBANESE: Mr Joyce will confirm that on no occasion did Qantas ever raise the issue of a lockout of its workforce—

Opposition members interjecting—

Mr ALBANESE: if you listen—to me or any other government minister.

Honourable members interjecting—

The SPEAKER: Order! The minister will resume his seat.

Mr Champion interjecting—

The SPEAKER: The member for Wakefield is warned! The member for Sturt on a point of order, and I just remind people they can shout all they like and I will not give the call to somebody, like I did.

Mr Pyne: Mr Speaker, on a point of order: the minister was asked a short and specific question about how many warnings he had been given about the grounding of the fleet, not about a lockout of workers.

The SPEAKER: The member for Sturt will resume his seat. He has made his point of order. He cannot debate the point of order. The minister is aware of the question. He understands the responsibility to be directly relevant and the minister has the call.

Mr ALBANESE: I am being directly relevant, Mr Speaker. On Saturday afternoon I received a phone call from a staff member who had been contacted by a staff member of Alan Joyce, the CEO of Qantas. He indicated to me that Mr Joyce would be making a phone call to me to advise me of the situation.

I rang Mr Joyce back when I did not hear from him at 1.51 pm. I still did not hear from him. I rang at 1.55 pm. I still did not hear from him. I rang at 1.58 pm seeking to ascertain what the information was. Mr Joyce rang me—

Opposition members interjecting—

The SPEAKER: Order!

Mr ALBANESE: Mr Joyce—

The SPEAKER: The minister will resume his seat. The member for Kooyong will now be buying drinks for some people who cannot contain their enthusiasm on my right because he would have been dealt with but, no, people think that they can interject. That is not the way it works. There is no point of order. I am listening carefully to the minister’s response. He is responding to the question and if people, when they make their commentary, want to dwell on what words are in the answer and not in the answer, it is up to them but they will not do it now. The minister has the call.

Mr ALBANESE: Mr Joyce rang me after 2 pm on Saturday afternoon. He informed me that according to him the board had made a decision on Saturday morning that they would lock out their workforce at 8 pm on Monday evening and that they would ground the fleet due to safety concerns at five o’clock that afternoon.

The fact is that, in terms of Mr Joyce’s position during that conversation, he indicated very, very clearly that the grounding of the aircraft was as a result of the air operator certificate advice to him that the lockout from this evening at 8 pm would result in safety concerns according to Qantas. Indeed Mr Joyce indicated that that was the case. Mr Joyce had indicated in a number of meetings I had with him that planes had been grounded, and that is public knowledge: seven planes had been grounded.

On 18 October, Qantas released a press release saying:

If this overtime ban continues, we will be grounding even more aircraft.

They did that publicly, but the fact is that the licensed engineers union lifted the overtime ban and all industrial action for three weeks, and the only action that was taking place was pilots wearing red ties.

(Time expired)