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Thursday, 27 September 2001
Page: 31687

Mr HAASE (2:39 PM) —My question is addressed to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Transport and Regional Services. Would the minister update the House on the latest initiative by the government to restore air services? Does the minister have any information on how many Ansett employees have been reinstated since the airline was put into administration?

Mr ANDERSON (Minister for Transport and Regional Services) —I thank the honourable member for his question. As has been widely reported today, last night we entered into arrangements with the administrator, negotiated last night, to return five Ansett A320s to service this weekend and another six over the following week. This is a limited but significant and commercially well-constructed exercise, and the administrator is confident that it can be made to work. Having looked at it, we agree with him that it is worthy of support. On that basis, we have agreed to inject confidence, by standing behind those who would purchase tickets, to the tune of $25 million over the next 12 weeks. Indeed, so confident is the administrator in his position that he has indemnified us—on behalf of our representing the taxpayers, of course—on the basis of security against assets. This is a very welcome development. It means that another 1,500 Ansett employees will return to work.

The federal government, as we have worked through this, has assisted in the restoration of services by Skywest in Western Australia. I know it is very important to Barry Haase, the member for Kalgoorlie, and to others in the biggest of the states in the Commonwealth. Hazelton in New South Wales are gradually unfolding their services again in a very welcome way. Kendell is starting and has some way to go. The member for Riverina has been very keen to work through further opportunities for Kendell, and she has been endless in her pursuit of that objective—we are doing what we can. I am advised now that 90 people at Hazelton, 101 at Kendell and 146 at Skywest are back at work, and Skywest is recruiting former Ansett staff. Add to that 750 people involved in Traveland and nearly 500 who have now found employment with Qantas, and 3,000, in all, from Ansett are now working again in aviation. I hope that is welcomed by everyone in this House.

There is still a long way to go, but I think it is quite reasonable to say that there has been a good start by the parties involved—by the administrators, by the government and by the airline operators. There are a couple of exceptions to those parties that have not made worthwhile contributions to this. One party has made a lot of noise but has made no worthwhile contribution, and that is the ACTU. For all their noise, all the criticism, all the rallies and all the so-called plans, the one thing that can be said of the ACTU is that we cannot identify a single job that they have helped to restore—not one. I would be delighted if the ACTU's involvement had got anyone back to work. I would be the first to give them credit for it, but it seems that they are determined to be part of the problem and not part of the solution. This is a very important point. Last night, Greg Combet's attitude appears to have been reflected in the comment that he made. He said:

The planes will fly with Ansett crew under existing Ansett certified agreements. That has always been the position.

Blind Freddy knows that major changes in work practices in the interests of Ansett employees and their future are absolutely necessary in these circumstances. The question has to be asked: does the ACTU really want them back at work? Will they now commit themselves, as other parties have, to trying to work through this in the interests of Ansett employees, of the travelling public and of competitive aviation?

Opposition members interjecting—

Mr ANDERSON —I have some useful quotes here and I am coming to another one in a moment. Is it the case that the ACTU's real—

Mr SPEAKER —Member for Cunningham!

Mr ANDERSON —Mr Speaker, whenever they think there is a quote coming that relates to somebody in the Labor movement, they start making a lot of noise. An example of the ACTU being more interested in politics than in policy outcomes is to be found in a rally yesterday. The ACTU got a bit of a protest rally going outside the member for Lindsay's office in Penrith. The protest took place and then the protesters, having concluded, got back on the bus.

Mr Horne —Well, they couldn't catch a plane!

Mr ANDERSON —It is very obvious that the opposition do not want to hear what these people have been saying. The protest over, the leader of the ACTU, Sharan Burrows, and her group got back on the bus. But a television crew arrived late, so they all got off the bus again and trooped over to the other side of the road and got the whole protest going again. The centrepiece of the protest was a letter that was intended for delivery to the member, and the camera crew asked the logical question: `Could we have the letter?' But Ms Burrows replied, `No, you can't have the letter. We are only doing this for the camera.'