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Tuesday, 25 September 2001
Page: 31425

Mrs DE-ANNE KELLY (9:26 PM) —I rise to speak on the Air Passenger Ticket Levy (Collection) Bill 2001 and the Air Passenger Ticket Levy (Imposition) Bill 2001, but I could not allow the opportunity to go by to respond to the shadow minister, who has mentioned the impact on the tourism industry of the recent failure of Ansett Australia. There is no doubt that the tourism industry has been exposed through this; that there are difficulties in many areas. Obviously the shadow minister has not spent a lot of time in my area—for which I am most grateful, I must say. He is obviously too busy in Sydney. Let me read from a newsletter from Tourism Whitsunday, dated 21 September 2001. The newsletter says:

Airline demise may provide new opportunities for the region—

You had better get up there, Shadow Minister, and find out what they have to say. This is their newsletter—not what I am saying, not what the government is saying, and certainly not what the shadow minister is saying. Tourism Whitsunday says further:

After further contact with members regarding their current booking situation for the September School Holidays, John Dean, CEO TW, stated, `At this stage the Whitsundays is in reasonable shape.

So come up and find out, Shadow Minister. It continues:

We are very fortunate to have the ongoing support and commitment of Qantas, Whitsunday Transit and Hamilton Island Aviation, who have been working very hard to service the region. As stated last Friday, TW together with local industry partners and Tourism Queensland met and discussed several possible strategies to help alleviate the access problem. In conjunction with Whitsunday Transit, one of these strategies is to do a major radio campaign in Brisbane on B105, which will not only highlight Whitsunday Transit's temporary express coach services between Brisbane and Airlie Beach/Shute Harbour, but it will aggressively target the Brisbane market and let them know that the Whitsundays is open for business.

... ... ...

John Dean also said `The demise of Ansett—

this is from the newsletter, Shadow Minister, so maybe you ought to make some time to come to our area—

has created a watershed for the region, providing us with opportunities to develop new relationships with other airlines and charter operators ...

The shadow minister is leaving the chamber—he cannot handle it. It continues:

We will keep you up-to-date with developments as they occur.

Mr Slipper —He is running away from your speech.

Mrs DE-ANNE KELLY —He cannot handle it. He has not been to the Whitsundays and he does not understand what is going on. The newsletter continues:

Qantas increases seats into Hamilton Island.

The reality is that, yes, there has been a blow to the tourist industry; there is no doubt about that.

Mr Snowdon —Just a blip!

Mrs DE-ANNE KELLY —You are saying it is a blip? Notice that the member for the Northern Territory says it is a blip: a blip from the blop from the Northern Territory. I want to read what Tourism Whitsunday has to say. The newsletter continues:

In support of the region, Qantas has added an additional daily service from Sydney to Hamilton Island, doubling seat capacity until 1 October ...

The shadow minister is back—it is good to hear the good news. It continues:

Flights depart Sydney at 10.10 pm arriving into Hamilton Island Airport at 00.40 am and departing Hamilton Island Airport at 3.00 a.m.

For the benefit of somebody who wants to talk up the tourism industry, the newsletter quotes John Dean—a man with a lot of get-up-and-go, confidence and a positive attitude. Put this on your door, Shadow Minister. John Dean said:

The door of opportunity has push written on it.

So the next time you want to talk the tourism industry down, go for it, but you will not get any support from the tourism industry in our area.

I want to speak now about the current bill. There is no doubt that in the last two weeks we have seen the demise of an Australia icon, and much of the responsibility for that lies with Air New Zealand.

Mr Slipper —The incompetence of the board.

Mrs DE-ANNE KELLY —Indeed, the incompetence of the board. It seems that the only people flying high were the senior executives of Air New Zealand.

Mr Slipper —What about their salaries?

Mrs DE-ANNE KELLY —Yes, with performance bonuses—some performance, I must say—while systematically stripping Ansett of its assets and cash, and stripping its employees of a future, in many cases. Aircraft were being sold and leased back, with the proceeds being sequestered by Air New Zealand, not being ploughed back into Ansett. Spare parts were being moved to the other side of the Tasman. If we can establish impropriety—

Mr Slipper —They make Christopher Skase look honest.

Mrs DE-ANNE KELLY —Yes, quite so. There are three levels of concern in this issue: the employees, who are rightly entitled to everything that they have earned—it belongs to them; the tourism industry—the shadow minister is right to mention the tourism industry; and the travellers in rural and regional Australia.

Allow me to deal with the employees first, because, to be honest, they have lost their jobs and their opportunities. Let us look at what is happening for them. This legislation is necessary to fund the government's commitment to provide Ansett employees with 100 per cent of their statutory entitlements. We will provide 100 per cent of unpaid wages and salaries, 100 per cent of accrued annual leave, 100 per cent of accrued long service leave and 100 per cent of accrued pay in lieu of notice. We will also provide, as the national Liberal government, up to eight weeks of redundancy entitlements, as per the community standard. For those entitlements which should have been paid by the employer, Air New Zealand, the government will seek to recover them from Air New Zealand. As Minister Abbott has said, we are standing shoulder to shoulder with the Ansett employees at this difficult time, as the government should. Of course, we have heard all the usual whining, carping and yapping from the other side. This is from an opposition which, in 13 long years in government, did absolutely nothing in respect of the entitlements of employees.

Mr Slipper —Asleep at the wheel.

Mrs DE-ANNE KELLY —They were not asleep at the wheel but, I will tell you what, they were asleep in the departure lounge. They never did anything. But hypocrisy knows no bounds with the opposition. They have complained that the entitlements should go further. The way that they could ensure this full entitlement is to persuade the state governments to match the Commonwealth contribution dollar for dollar. In the case of National Textiles, the New South Wales government did that and the employees of that company received their entitlements in full. The question—and I am sure the minister sitting at the table will join me—is: where is the Bracks government in Victoria, given that Ansett is a Victorian domiciled company? And where is the Premier of Queensland? The Premier of Queensland is where he usually is: in front of a camera. His only contribution to the debate has been to call for air travellers to boycott Air New Zealand. He was up in the northern part of Queensland, wanting a media grab, and said that we should boycott Air New Zealand. A lot of good that will do. It made a good 30 seconds of media time. Once again, the state premiers have sidestepped their responsibilities. I exclude from that the Premier of New South Wales who, in the case of National Textiles, did do the right thing by employees. But the Bracks government and the Queensland government have sidestepped their responsibilities.

I would like to return to travellers. We have mentioned the employees and it is appropriate that we do so. The government's move on this, with the $10 levy on a one-way trip, is, I believe, a sound measure. In fact, the opposition is supporting that, as it should, to ensure that employee entitlements are met. This compares with the opposition's proposal, Manusafe, which is an additional levy on the superannuation guarantee levy. When I spoke to tourist operators in my area—as I am sure every other member of parliament did—and canvassed their concerns and their response to this, I also spoke about the options open to the government in terms of employee entitlements. Let me say that nobody wants Manusafe. They all know what that means: that unscrupulous business operators will be able to pass on their employee entitlements to a fund, leaving those who are honest, decent directors and employers to pay. Nobody in my electorate supports that proposition. They do not want to see those who are unscrupulous—although they are a very small minority of employers and directors in Australia—able to just walk away from their employees. Not only is that a way of quickly passing the responsibility to honest employers, it is also a way of allowing the moral obligation to employees to be simply bypassed—as you would agree, Mr Deputy Speaker, I have no doubt. Nobody supports that.

Moving to the travellers, who should rightly be our next concern, the Minister for Transport and Regional Services, John Anderson, has really done an exceptional job in this.

Mr Fitzgibbon —What?

Mrs DE-ANNE KELLY —He has. It has been easy for the opposition to target this, because they have $2 billion in their back pocket, have they? Are they are going to just ignore the debt and get Ansett in the air again? There is no Australian who would not like that to happen—that is a worthy aim— but, like all worthy aims, you have to be able to fund it responsibly.

Mr Slipper —They'd really have to hike up taxes again, wouldn't they?

Mrs DE-ANNE KELLY —Indeed they would, and let us not forget that that means a rise in interest rates. John Anderson, in his thorough, calm manner, has got planes back into the air—not hot air, as the opposition has. There are in fact only two communities which are still looking at a service. I commend the Deputy Prime Minister. This has been a very difficult situation, but he has done better than the opposition did when in government. In 1991 when Compass went to the government of the day—the Labor government—the government said no. The late Brian Gray, head of Compass said:

I went to the government on Wednesday and I asked for some relief. Kerin, Beazley and Collins came in and sat down and before I even opened my mouth, Kerin simply said there could be no cooperation from the Commonwealth government. He said, `Under no circumstances will we help you by any means.'

Oh, my, how the hypocrites on the other side change their tune when they do not have to pay for it.

I fully support this bill. I fully support my tourism operators in the Whitsundays—as they say, the door of opportunity has `push' written on it—and I commend them for their proactive and strong approach to overcoming the present challenge.