Subjects: Qantas, national security, Iraq
CURTIS: Anthony Albanese, welcome to Capital Hill.
ALBANESE: Good to be with you Lyndal.
CURTIS: Qantas has announced a big after-tax loss. Can the airline keep cutting its wages excess?
ALBANESE: The airlines has gone through the worst. And now, I think can develop quite a significantly better future. It’s made some –
CURTIS: What gives you hope? When some people say part of the problem is its decisions made on its fleet. And that’s something that takes a lot of money and a lot of planning and time to rectify.
ALBANESE: Well there’s no doubt that anyone who looks at the history of Qantas can point towards errors that have been made, commercial errors that have been made including I think its choice of fleet, and in terms of some of the arrangements that it attempted to enter into. But now I think it has certainty, it has legislative certainty, in that the Government accepted the amendments that Labor put forward to maintain Qantas as an Australian airline but to free up some of the provisions within the 49% so that’s done. What’s also done is significant international arrangements with partners including Emirates, China Eastern and that means that in terms of going forward they have significant partners in both Asia and the Middle East of course which is an entry point into Europe.
CURTIS: So if they have the ability with the changes that have been made on ownership structure, if they have international agreements and presumably a better international climate, does the only reason for Qantas not to succeed become a question of management?
ALBANESE: Well certainly I think the management will be held to account. Today’s results are certainly not good but they are slightly better than what market expectations were. A loss in the order of $650 million, the markets had expected that figure to be $700 million. They’ve made some difficult decisions in terms of writing down the value of some of the aircraft, some of the aircraft that were bought, in terms of the A380’s when the Australian dollar was around about 57c so it makes sense to write that down. But let’s put it in perspective. Qantas still has $3 billion in cash. It is still a successful company with a great safety record internationally. It’s important for Australia that Qantas is a successful company.
CURTIS: Do you have faith in the ability of the company to pick things up?
ALBANESE: Well I want that to occur. And I think that government should play its role in facilitating that. We’ve certainly done that both in government and in Opposition, been constructive. We think it’s also important that Virgin whose results come out tomorrow, I wouldn’t expect it to record a profit either. The airline industry is tough and I think what we saw with Qantas and Virgin is some of the capacity conflicts that were going on was that actions that were taking place that weren’t in the interests of either airline or a sustainable domestic aviation industry. That has improved going forward, there needs to be a little bit of common sense there going forward and Qantas is projecting a profit going forward to the next year and I certainly hope that we continue to have what is essentially a two airline situation here, two very successful airlines.
CURTIS: On another issue, do you believe as one of your senators does that the government is using national security to distract from its budget woes?
ALBANESE: I’m going to very much separate out those two issues. I thinking terms of the budget there’s no doubt that this is an extraordinarily incompetent government. It’s incompetent in terms of selling its message. But it’s incompetent in terms of selling a bad message. The way they’ve put together this government, the budget. They went out there and they spoke about budget emergencies. That had an impact on consumer confidence. It was of course nonsense. They inherited a government that had strong jobs growth, low inflation, low interest rates, a triple A credit rating, they talk the whole show down for political purposes, they then made savage and unfair cuts for which they had no mandate, and of course the Australian public have rejected many of the measures such as a new GP tax and the university changes.
CURTIS: Do you have any qualms then about the national security issue, about the government’s extension surrounding terror laws and possibly extension of engagement in Iraq?
ALBANESE: I’ll view national security issues on their merits. When we see the detail I am happy to respond. Of course at the moment we don’t have the detail. I watched an interview on Lateline last night where Senator Johnson didn’t seem to have any of the detail there so it’s pretty hard to respond. But in general of course national security must be the first order of any government, has that responsibility. Oppositions have a responsibility to act constructively where this comes. I’m certainly concerned in very real terms about the threat which domestic jihadists going over to the Middle East and fighting have. That’s something that I expressed in government and I still have that concern in Opposition. And it’s not just Iraq of course. We need to bear in mind that some of the fighters in Syria who’ve gone there, essentially fundamentalists who’ve attacked other members of the different Islamic groups that they don’t agree with and of course, and Christians and other groups as well.
CURTIS: Anthony Albanese, thank you very much for your time.
ALBANESE: Good to talk with you.