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Monday, 16 June 2003
Page: 16380


Mr EDWARDS (1:48 PM) —I am one of many people with a disability who rely on a wheelchair. For people like me, air travel with Qantas is often a stressful and worrying time. I know from my own experiences that, after being reunited with my chair following a flight, I often find the frame is bent, spokes are broken or wheels are buckled. Indeed, one wheelchair manufacturer in Perth tells me that a lot of his repair work comes from those who have recently travelled by air. If such damage is not enough, I find that you also need a great deal of patience as a person with a disability. We are always first on and last off, and often we are forced to wait—as I have on many occasions—up to 20 minutes for a wheelchair to arrive at the cabin door before we can alight from the plane.

These things I and other people with a disability do without complaint. But I have had enough. Last night for the second time in 12 months I arrived in Canberra only to be told that my wheelchair was still in Melbourne and would not arrive in Canberra for another couple of hours. I cannot understand how a company—an Australian company—is so incompetent that it can lose a person's wheelchair not once but twice. Qantas enjoy a monopoly in our skies. They do not deserve it, and the sooner we get some decent competition the better.

I direct my remarks at the management of Qantas—not the cabin crew or ground staff, who are always pleasant and a delight to deal with. I direct my remarks at the management of Qantas, who think that the needs of people with disabilities are insignificant and that this is an area for constant staff cutback. I say to the management of Qantas: you are a disgrace.