Oct 31, 2011

Question without notice – Qantas

Mr ABBOTT (Warringah—Leader of the Opposition) (15:03): My question is to the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport. I refer the minister to a statement of Mr Alan Joyce on Radio National this morning. Mr Joyce was asked about his conversations with ministers and he said: ‘I said on multiple occasions’—to ministers—’we could get to a stage where we’d have to ground the airline.’ That was the statement of Mr Alan Joyce on Radio National today. So I ask the minister for transport: is he claiming that this statement of Mr Alan Joyce was an attempt to mislead the Australian public?

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Leader of the House and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (15:03): I thank the Leader of the Opposition for his question. Indeed, I had a number of meetings with Mr Joyce. As I indicated at the press conference, I would not normally make these public, but, given they appeared in the Daily Telegraph on page 3, I think I am entitled to do so. I met with Mr Joyce firstly on 11 October, with staff. I then met with Mr Joyce on the Friday before last, 21 October, along with Mr Sheldon, in my Marrickville office. I have a good relationship with both Mr Joyce and Mr Sheldon. I offered to facilitate discussions between the parties in order to resolve these issues. As a result of that discussion, Mr Sheldon, on behalf of the TWU, called off the industrial action which was proposed for the following Wednesday, because real progress was made.

That afternoon, I had another meeting with Mr Joyce in my Marrickville office. The following Wednesday, I had another meeting with Mr Joyce and Mr Sheldon in my Marrickville office. Again, last Wednesday progress was being made towards a resolution of the dispute.

Mr Abbott: Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I appreciate the detail that the minister is going into, but the question was very specific: was he advised by Mr Joyce about the grounding of the fleet?

The SPEAKER: Order! The minister is aware of his responsibilities.

Mr ALBANESE: I had those meetings as well as numerous text messages and phone conversations—indeed, I have probably had more conversations with Mr Joyce in the last fortnight that I had with my family, because we were determined to get a resolution to this dispute.

At no stage did Mr Joyce do either of two things. At no stage did Mr Joyce publicly or privately ask the government for any intervention into this dispute. That is the first thing. The second thing is: at no stage did Mr Joyce indicate that the grounding of the Qantas fleet was imminent and that it was under active consideration. Indeed, on Saturday, throughout 12 hours of hearings before Fair Work Australia, Qantas indicated very clearly that the grounding of the fleet was because of the lockout of the workers at 8 pm on Monday evening. You do not have to trust us on that; you have to look at the transcript of Fair Work Australia from 10 pm to 2 am on Saturday evening into Sunday morning and from 2 pm yesterday afternoon through to 2 am this morning. Throughout that entire time Qantas have said they relied upon their safety concerns due to the grounding of the fleet. That is why they grounded the fleet at 5 pm. Indeed, Mr Joyce in the conversation with me raised specifically safety concerns. I indicated in the question I got from our side of the House earlier today that I sought advice from CASA on Saturday afternoon, after being advised by Mr Joyce, about whether there was any justification for the grounding of the fleet and I was told there was none.