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Thursday, 6 March 2014
Page: 1906


Mr THISTLETHWAITE (Kingsford Smith) (14:35): My question is to the Prime Minister. Prime Minister, a large number of Qantas workers in my electorate are now losing their jobs. Many of them have contacted me over the past couple of days in a distressed state. What plans does your government have to support these workers and their families?

Mr ABBOTT (WarringahPrime Minister) (14:35): It is a good question and it is tragic. It is absolutely tragic for any worker to get the news that his or her job is redundant. There is no doubt about that. It is absolutely tragic. There are two things that governments can do for workers in a situation like that. First of all, we can ensure that there are strong and effective employment services that can help people in those very difficult circumstances, and I am confident that we do have strong and effective employment services to help. The second thing we can do is try to ensure that the economy is strong so that if one job stops another job can start, and that is what we are determined to do by cutting taxes, reducing red tape, boosting productivity and improving our infrastructure. That is the best thing that we can do.

The other thing that we should try to do is ensure that—

Ms Hall interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Shortland will desist.

Mr ABBOTT: the business that is shedding staff is able to restructure so that it can become competitive and once more have a strong future, and, in Qantas's case, continue to be one of the world's great airlines. That is what we are determined to do—to ensure that Qantas will remain one of the world's great airlines. The Leader of the Opposition constantly bickers across the table. He is bickering across the table now: 'Qantas won't be Australian.' Is the Leader of the Opposition seriously suggesting that a company like Virgin is somehow un-Australian? Is that what he is really saying—that Virgin is somehow un-Australian, even though it employs almost 10,000 Australians, flies more than 20 million Australians around the country every year—

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER: There will be silence on my left.

Mr ABBOTT: and services some 140 planes, nearly all in this country? I want Qantas to have a strong future. That is why I am prepared to establish a level playing field for Qantas. The Labor Party, back in 2009, wanted to create a level playing field for Qantas but lost its nerve.

Ms Macklin interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Jagajaga will desist or leave—one or the other.

Mr ABBOTT: This government will not lose its nerve on this subject. We will ensure not just that Qantas is sold but that Qantas is finally free. That is what we want.