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Thursday, 6 March 2014
Page: 1903


Mr SHORTEN (MaribyrnongLeader of the Opposition) (14:27): My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer to the government's proposal to allow foreign ownership of Qantas. How long will the consequent demerger, the thousands of staff transfers, the foreign investment review process and the obtaining of a new air operating certificate take? How many years and how many hundreds of millions of dollars will it cost Qantas and their shareholders?

Mr ABBOTT (WarringahPrime Minister) (14:27): The fundamental truth is that we want to liberate Qantas from the shackles on its operation. We want to ensure that Qantas and Virgin are both competing on the same level playing field. We have had a lot of questions on all sorts of points from members opposite.

Mr Burke: Madam Speaker, I raise a point of order under standing order 104. We have had lots of questions on lots of issues, as the Prime Minister says. We have one right now on how long this will take.

The SPEAKER: We do not need the commentary; state the point of order.

Mr Burke: That is what it is about.

The SPEAKER: There is no point of order. I call the Prime Minister.

Mr ABBOTT: The fundamental point is this: we want to give Qantas a fair go and members opposite do not. That is all we want. We want to give Qantas the same fair go that other airlines have. The former minister for transport stood up and asked earlier today what has changed between now and 2009, when Labor wanted to remove the 25 per cent and 35 per cent rules. I will answer honestly.

Mr Burke: Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Utilising the Mackellar precedent, if the Prime Minister does not know the answer, he should be sat down.

The SPEAKER: I will repeat what I have said before: I clearly did it better than you do. I call the Prime Minister.

Mr ABBOTT: He has asked what has changed since 2009.

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER: There is too much noise on my left. We are hearing the answer.

An opposition member: No, we are not.

The SPEAKER: If there is no silence someone will remove themselves.

Mr ABBOTT: Let me answer with complete candour. Members opposite have got worse, and members on this side have got better. That is the truth. We have improved our understanding. We have gone forward; they have gone backwards.

Mr Albanese interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Grayndler will remove himself under 94(a).

The member for Grayndler then left the chamber.

Mr ABBOTT: The once great Labor Party, which had the strength, the courage and the insight to sell Qantas back in the early 1990s, has gone backwards. That is the truth. This is a worse Labor Party. This is a Labor Party which has—

Mr Conroy interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Charlton will join the member for Grayndler under 94(a).

The member for Charlton then left the chamber.

Mr ABBOTT: turned its back on reform and turned its back on leadership. What we are seeing today is a Labor Party which has turned its back on Qantas, and we will never do that. That is why we support this act.

Mr Pyne: I simply make the point that it is quite impossible to hear the Prime Minister's answer because of the extraordinarily bad behaviour coming from the opposition benches.

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER: I must say I am having trouble hearing the Leader of the House make his point of order. I will say, as I said yesterday, there is a wall of noise—I do not know whether it is a tactic or whether it is spontaneous—which will not be tolerated. Should it continue, more people will join those who have already left.

Mr Perrett interjecting

Mr Pyne: By way of illustration, the member for Moreton was shouting out while you were telling that side of the House not to shout.

Opposition members: Dobber!

The SPEAKER: I thank the Leader of the House.

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER: There will be silence. Sometimes, I think the member for Moreton thinks he is writing a book verbally. I give the call to the honourable member for Macquarie, and there will be silence on my left.