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Thursday, 17 July 2014
Page: 8478

Mr BRIGGS (MayoAssistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development) (14:41): The Qantas Sale Amendment Bill 2014 is a key part of the government's commitment to ensure the Australian aviation industry can grow in an environment that is safe, fair, competitive and productive. Australians want a strong and competitive Qantas, and the coalition wants Qantas to remain a profitable Australian company. We want Qantas to be as successful as it possibly can be in domestic and international markets, which is why the government had sought to repeal part 3 of the Qantas Sale Act 1992 which places various restrictions on Qantas's ownership and governance arrangements that do not apply to its competitors. The government maintains that the best way to assist Qantas in its present difficulties is to remove part 3 in its entirety and, in doing so, level the playing field by ensuring the same investment and operational rules apply to all airlines operating in Australia.

The constraints on Qantas's ability to compete and engage in the marketplace place Qantas at a disadvantage. However, it was clear that the Senate would not accept the bill in its original form, and the government determined that the best course of action in the current circumstances would be to accept the opposition's amendments. These amendments remove only the 25 per cent restriction on individual foreign share ownership and the maximum 35 per cent total ownership by foreign airlines. Foreign investment will still be subject to approval by the Foreign Investment Review Board.

The bill, as amended, will go some way to ease the restrictive investment provisions that apply solely to Qantas. Qantas will still operate under restrictions that do not apply to any other Australian airline but will have greater capacity to attract new investment. Qantas has said that, while removing part 3 was their preferred outcome, they support the amended bill as a step in the right direction.

This week the government has repealed the carbon tax, which had a significant impact on Australian airlines. The carbon tax represents a $114 million cost to Qantas in 2013-14 alone. Today the government will remove the foreign investment sub-limits that uniquely apply to Qantas under the Qantas Sale Act to allow Qantas greater flexibility. The fundamental job of government is to ensure our economy is strong as possible. That means getting the fundamentals right. It means getting taxes down, red tape down and productivity up. Whilst the amended bill is not the government's ideal solution to assist Qantas, it is progress towards this goal. I thank all members and senators for their contribution to this debate.

Question agreed to.