Oct 31, 2011

Transcript of Interview – ABC 891 Adelaide

Subjects: Qantas Dispute

DAVID BEVAN: Of course we’re also looking at the big picture with transport and that is Qantas. And Anthony Albanese is the Federal Minister for Transport and Infrastructure. He joins us now. Good morning Minister.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning guys.

DAVID BEVAN: Thank you for your time. We appreciate you’ve been pretty busy thing morning.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Yeah it’s been a pretty busy weekend.

DAVID BEVAN: Anthony Albanese, could the Federal Government have done anything – anything – to avert the disaster of the last 48 hours?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: No, and Alan Joyce has just confirmed on another ABC program that they made a decision that the board – on Saturday morning, that it was a fait accompli that was presented to the Government. The Government did what it could do, which was take this issue to Fair Work Australia. Fair Work Australia convened of course an emergency meeting on

Saturday evening that went right through to 2am this morning when a decision was made to terminate the decision by Qantas to lock out its workforce and to terminate any future industrial action by the union.

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: [Interrupts] But in the weeks leading up to this, it was pretty clear that Qantas was in strife, and that the unions were running a very clever guerrilla campaign, and the mantra from the Prime Minister seemed to be sort it out.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, let’s be –

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: [Interrupts] Could she have done more?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Let’s be clear. Can you see if you can find somewhere, anywhere at all, whereby Qantas or the unions or indeed the Opposition – during that period that was calling for Government intervention. That wasn’t the case. The first calls for Government intervention were from State Premiers last Friday. They of course –

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: [Interrupts] Well they were ahead of the game.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well they could have actually done something themselves. And the timing of it.

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: [Interrupts] A [indistinct]?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: No, no, but they could applied to Fair Work Australia just as the Federal Government did.

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: Well that’s right, belatedly.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Let’s be clear here. The only industrial action that was on the agenda was pilots wearing red ties and making announcements to passengers. The engineers had called off all industrial action and called for a cooling off period. The Transport Workers Union had no scheduled industrial action prior to the decision by Qantas board. They bear responsibility alone for the decision that they made on Saturday morning.

DAVID BEVAN: Well if it was that simple, why has it taken Fair Work Australia 15 hours to sort it out? You make it sound very simple – a couple of people wearing ties, what’s the problem?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Go back to how long it took to sort it out the Patricks dispute or other major disputes before we had this sort of return to work from both employers and employees decision that we’re seeing from Fair Work Australia overnight. You had lawyers at 20 paces from both Qantas and the unions. An appropriate hearing before the industrial umpire. The industrial umpire’s made a decision that’s binding on all parties.

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: Do you think the union demands over the last few months have been unreasonable?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I think many of the things that the unions have said are unreasonable and I have said so when they have said them. Whether it be unions saying don’t fly Qantas – that’s a silly thing to do, because there is a common interest here between Qantas and its employees and its workforce.

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: So nobody’s wearing black hats and nobody’s wearing white hats in this dispute?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: No, I think –

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: There aren’t good guys and bad guys here?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Both sides need to act with a bit of maturity, act like adults, and get this deal done. They have 21 days to bargain in good faith. Otherwise there will be a determination which is binding on all parties made by Fair Work Australia.

DAVID BEVAN: Now Anthony Albanese, Federal Transport Minister, joining us on 891 ABC Adelaide Breakfast at a quarter past seven. There’s a text here that says a Mexican ruined Telstra, now an Irishman has destroyed Qantas. What’s your reaction to those sentiments from our listeners?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I think Alan Joyce is an Australian citizen and I think that some of the comments towards Alan Joyce have not been appropriate at all and you know, he’s a loyal Australian. Many people come from all parts of the world to Australia…

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: He’s a loyal Australian with $5 million in the kick, was that helpful when you’re negotiating industrial action?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I think people will make their own judgements on that…

MATTHEW ABRAHAM:        No I’m asking you.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I’m not into bagging any individual.  Suffice to say that I think people will make their own judgement as to the timing and the nature of that decision.

DAVID BEVAN: Do you think that the dispute has exposed flaws in the Fair Work system?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I think it’s shown that it is operating in quite an effective way to get the intervention that we did, to get the determination from Saturday evening through to today is remarkably short compared with the disputes of the past such as Patrick’s which was a major dispute that went on four months.  What we have here is an outcome that’s binding on all parties in a relatively short period of time, I might have said that I think Qantas’s actions in grounding their airlines that they made is unfortunate and I believe was not warranted.

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: But is that the only way you can get Fair Work Australia up off its collective bottoms and that is, you know, you’re lauding here, the speed with which this was settled, only after an airline just about sent itself – it just about terminates itself…

ANTHONY ALBANESE: They made half a billion dollars profit last year by the way and they had quite a successful AGM with all their shareholders one day before they made this announcement.

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: That doesn’t seem to be the question.  Are you saying they haven’t hurt their brand and the economy by doing what they’ve done?  Because I’m just saying to you…

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Of course they have.

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: Okay the question was…

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Of course they have but at any stage under the act by the way, any party to the dispute had a number of options opened to them.  Qantas could have gone to Fair Work Australia at any time and sought to terminate the bargaining period.  That avenue was open to them…

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: But would they have got that ruling Anthony Albanese Federal Transport Minister without taking the extraordinary action that they took?  That’s the question going back to David’s question, that is does Fair Work Australia, has this exposed flaws in the system?  You have to take extraordinary action to get some decisive action.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well we don’t know because Qantas did not seek to do that, just as they at no stage asked the Government to intervene in this dispute.  At no stage did any of the parties ask for Government intervention to go to Fair Work Australia.

DAVID BEVAN: When do you expect things to be back to normal?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I would hope that by this evening that will be the case.  It does take time once you shut down an airline to get it up and running again.  It’s not quite as simple as just flicking a light switch.  CASA, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority are working with Qantas and with the workforce to make sure that it can be up and running as soon as possible.  Of course in the meantime Virgin Australia have put on extra flights.  There’s some 3000 extra seats available today on top of the way in which action was taken quickly over the weekend.  We got 3000 extra bums on seats on Saturday through Virgin Australia by them acting very quickly to do what we could to alleviate which was a massive inconvenience for the Australian travelling public.

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: Minister thanks for talking to us.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to talk to you.