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Tuesday, 1 November 2011
Page: 12293

Qantas


Mr ABBOTT (WarringahLeader of the Opposition) (13:32): My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer the Prime Minister to her immediate ban on live cattle exports in response to Bob Brown and the Greens in June—

Government members interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order! Order!

Mr ABBOTT: and I contrast that with the 48 hours of airport chaos that resulted from her dithering on Saturday. I ask: why is this Prime Minister more concerned to pander to the Greens than she is to protect the Australian travelling public?

Opposition members: Hear, hear!

The SPEAKER: Order! The House will come to order. The Prime Minister has the call. The Prime Minister.





Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (13:32): I thank the Leader of the Opposition for his question. I must admit I did commence laughing at the start of it, because I thought the Leader of the Opposition was moving off Qantas! And I would have known why if he was moving off Qantas today—because, having spent all of that time yesterday yelling and screaming for answers about who knew what when, what happens today? The Leader of the Opposition twice refused to answer a question about when he knew that Qantas was going to lock its workers out and ground the planes—

Honourable members interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order! The House will come to order!

Ms GILLARD: When did the Leader of the Opposition know?

Honourable members interjecting

Ms GILLARD: When did he know that tens of thousands of passengers were going to be stranded? When did he know the workers were going to be locked out?

Honourable members interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order! The Prime Minister will resume her seat. The House will settle down. The Prime Minister has the call. She will be heard in silence. The Prime Minister.

Ms GILLARD: I am very happy to answer the Leader of the Opposition's question because I think all the facts, every fact, about this dispute should be before the Australian people—every fact about contact with Qantas, every fact about who knew what when. The Leader of the Opposition might like to apply to himself the same standard that he is always so eager to apply to others—in here yesterday, screaming at the top of his voice for answers and, today, a man stunned into a humbling silence. To the Leader of the Opposition, I say this: what the government did on Saturday was the appropriate conduct—

Mr Morrison interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Cook will leave the chamber for one hour under standing order 94(a).

The member for Cook then left the chamber.

Ms GILLARD: for a government that understands that the workplace relations system is about balance. It is about treating the interests of employers and employees in balance. It is about making sure that there is fairness for all. It is about making sure that there is not industrial disruption that threatens the national interest. That is the approach of the government and that is the approach we took. Consequently, we moved on Saturday afternoon to bring this dispute to an end, and it was at an end by yesterday afternoon, with planes back in the sky—a balanced approach to the interests of employers and employees, always guided by what is in the interests of the national economy and the travelling public.

But what has amazed me in the course of the last few days is that in these circumstances—with Qantas having decided on Saturday to dramatically escalate this dispute, to engage in a lockout of its workforce, to ground planes with no appropriate notice to the travelling public so that tens of thousands of people were stranded away from home, unable to get to work, unable to get back to their loved ones—the Leader of the Opposition has not uttered one word of criticism of Qantas, not one word of criticism of Qantas after it stranded tens of thousands of passengers. We know why that is—well, we only know part of why that is—because the opposition leader's attitude towards industrial relations is to give the employers everything they want every time and smash into the workers. That was what Work Choices was about. What we do not quite know is all of the details about the Leader of the Opposition's interactions with Qantas, because he is now engaged in a cover-up of that. I say to the Leader of the Opposition that it is time he came clean with the Australian public. The tens of thousands of members of the Australian public who were stranded would be interested to know what the Leader of the Opposition knew and when he knew it.

Honourable members interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order! To the many people who are talking, I am going to interrupt you. We are running question time and the member for Banks has been standing patiently asking for the call.

Mr Hockey interjecting

The SPEAKER: In comparison between the member for Banks and the member for North Sydney, I know who has been the much luckier. The member for North Sydney, if he wishes to remain in question time, should sit there quietly.