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Thursday, 25 August 2011
Page: 5531


Senator XENOPHON (South Australia) (12:17): I present the explanatory memorĀ­andum and I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—

Qantas Sale Amendment (Still Call Australia Home) Bill 2011

Qantas is an iconic Australian company—it is the world's oldest continuously running airline, operating for 90 years to date, and prides itself on being the ‘spirit of Australia’.

Its story is woven into the story of Australia, and Australians have long taken pride in the service and safety standards provided by our national carrier, reminded often through the voices of the National Boys and the Australian Girls Choirs and picturesque imagery of the Australian landscape, that Qantas 'still calls Australia home'.

But recent moves by Qantas that focus its operations outside of Australia bring into question that statement.

Between flight and cabin crew being sourced from overseas, maintenance work being contracted to overseas locations or subsidiary and associate airlines being established in other countries, it seems that Qantas can no longer call Australia home with any credibility.

At best it’s turning into a stopover on the way to some place cheaper.

This bill seeks to ensure that the majority of Qantas operations remain within Australia, particularly the heavy maintenance of aircraft and flight operations and training.

Indeed, the 1992 Qantas Sale Act was designed to ensure that our national carrier remained Australian, even though it was being privatised.

I believe recent moves by Qantas management go against the spirit of that legislation.

Under this bill, Qantas must ensure that, in aggregate, its principal operational centre be majority located in Australia, and, specifically, that the majority of its heavy maintenance of aircraft and the majority of its flight operations and training be located in Australia.

The same requirements also apply to Qantas subsidiaries and any associated entities. This is to ensure that any 'arms' of the company maintain the intention of the Qantas Sale Act—that Qantas as a whole remain Australian.

This bill also requires that two persons—one with at least 5 years professional flight operations experience and one with at least 5 years aircraft engineering experience—be appointed as members of the Qantas Board of Directors.

This is to ensure that technical expertise about the day-to-day and practical running of Qantas is appropriately taken into consideration by management.

When it was passed in 1992, the Qantas Sale Act was designed to require Qantas to meet certain conditions that ensured high standards and that Australia's national carrier remained Australian.

There are existing provisions in the act that allow the court, on application of the minister, to apply an injunction against Qantas if they do not uphold these requirements.

Under this bill, this has been extended to include 100 Qantas shareholders or shareholder members who hold at least 5 per cent of the shares in Qantas.

Qantas needs to be held accountable to the Australian people because it is an Australian icon and our national carrier.

This is not just a matter of ensuring Australian jobs; it is also a matter of ensuring Australian standards.

Qantas has an impeccable safety record.

But my fear is that if Qantas continues to outsource its engineering requirements, and if it employs crews and pilots from countries which may not have the same training standards as is expected in Australia, this impeccable safety record will be put under pressure.

Senator XENOPHON: I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.