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Wednesday, 5 March 2014
Page: 1717


Mr SHORTEN (MaribyrnongLeader of the Opposition) (14:26): My question is to the Prime Minister. Today the first of 5,000 Qantas workers will be told about the jobs that they have lost. Prime Minister, what is the government's plan for these employees, or is the only plan that the government has got to export Australian jobs overseas?

Mr ABBOTT (WarringahPrime Minister) (14:27): The best thing that we can do for Qantas, the best thing that we can do for workers all around Australia, is to get the fundamentals of our economy right—to get taxes down, to get regulation down, to get productivity up and to get the infrastructure that our country needs built as quickly as possible. That is what this government is seeking to do and we are being opposed at every point by members opposite.

The Leader of the Opposition can stand up and complain but he cannot lead. He can stand up and criticise but we know that he could not govern. When there was a proposal—

Mr Burke: Madam Speaker, I am not sure what is left—

The SPEAKER: On a point of order?

Mr Burke: On a point of order, Madam Speaker—

The SPEAKER: Which is?

Mr Burke: If I am allowed to speak, you will hear it, Madam Speaker.

The SPEAKER: Well, you had better get on with it.

Mr Burke: Madam Speaker, I am not sure what is left of the direct relevance standing order at this stage of question time but, if there is anything left of it, the Prime Minister is completely out of order.

The SPEAKER: There is no point of order.

Mr Burke: Madam Speaker, are there—

The SPEAKER: The Manager of Opposition Business has a second point of order?

Mr Burke: Are there any circumstances where direct relevance will be enforced?

The SPEAKER: There is no point of order.

Mr ABBOTT: What the government is proposing is for the same set of rules and regulations to govern Qantas as govern Virgin. Virgin has gone from zero to almost 10,000 Australian employees. Virgin is carrying millions of Australians a week. That is what it is doing. Virgin is servicing planes in Australia. It is creating jobs in Australia. Virgin is growing and Qantas is shrinking and that is why we want Qantas to be under the same rules that Virgin is under. That is what we want. Isn't that the best thing we can do for Qantas?

What the Leader of the Opposition wants us to do, effectively, is to bail out a private company. That is what he wants. He wants us to get out the chequebook and write a cheque, just as members opposite have done so often. Let me remind the Leader of the Opposition what the former chief of staff to the former Prime Minister said:

It’s puzzling when a party claiming to be progressive wants to compound out-dated interventionism with a market distorting loan guarantee specific to Qantas. This is a step down the Argentine road.

That is what the Leader of the Opposition wants us to do.

Mr Burke: Madam Speaker, I have two points of order. Firstly, under standing order 86: yet again, the Prime Minister's microphone is allowed to go until he has completed the grab. If it were any of us, it would be cut off immediately. Secondly, on direct relevance. This question time has gone to new bounds. It is absolutely extraordinary. Anything he says, you allow.

The SPEAKER: This is a speech not a point of order. The member will resume his seat. Firstly, on the question of microphones: the microphones are not controlled from this desk. They are controlled by the engineers in the box at the rear of the chamber. You should know perfectly well that they are unbiased and do their job properly. Secondly, the member has asked the question: what is the government's plan for these jobs? The Prime Minister is addressing the question. The Prime Minister has the call.

Mr Shorten: My question was: what are you going to do for the 5,000 workers at Qantas?

The SPEAKER: We have already had a point on relevance. You only have one.

Mr Shorten: There was no answer.

The SPEAKER: The member is abusing the standing orders and will not do so again. The Prime Minister has the call and we will have silence on my left.

Mr ABBOTT: I am not giving the Leader of the Opposition the answer that he wants, because decent Labor people know that the Leader of the Opposition is dead wrong. Let me continue with what the former chief of staff to the former Labor Prime Minister said:

… the Qantas Sale Act should go … and the ALP should not stand in the way.

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER: There will be silence on my left or somebody will be leaving in order to lessen the noise.