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ABC News Breakfast -

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(generated from captions) The top story now on ABC News

Breakfast - both British

airways ask Qantas have

confirmed that they're in

talking on a possible merger

dial that could be worth $8

billion. The revelation comes

a day after a Government green

industry, among paper releasond the aviation

industry, among its proposals

is the relaxation of ownership

restrictions on Qantas. I'm

joined now by the Federal

Transport Minister, Anthony Albanese. Why the need to

change the ownership

restrictions at all? Well,

what we're simply proposing in

the green paper is for Qantas

to be put on a level playing

field with its competitors. We're

We're not proposing any change

whatsoever to the requirements

of the Qantas Act which are

that we need to have 51%

Australian ownership. The

proposition would just lift

those current restrictions on

25% foreign individual

ownership and 35% for foreign

airlines. In what way are the current restrictions holding

back Qantas? Well, the fact is

that they only apply to Qantas.

They don't apply to other

airlines and we think that it's

appropriate that Qantas be put

on a level playing field whilst

making sure that we protect

Qantas as an Australian-based

carrier. There are a range of

provisions in the Qantas Act.

The Government supports the

maintenance of those

provisions. They include that

Qantas must have an Australian

citizen as chairman of the

board, a majority of Australian

citizens on the board, that

Qantas must have its operations

based here in Australia, that

the Government isn't the Government isn't proposing

in the green paper any changes

to those arrangements. These

merger talks apparently have

been going on for some time.

Were you aware Qantas and

British airways were in

discussions about a potential

merger? Yes, I was aware of

that. Qantas, as would be

appropriate, informed me as the

Transport Minister and though

it's also important to note

that whilst Qantas and BA have

put out a statement confirming

these talks, they're are far

from reaching a conclusion and

the outcome far from certain

and any arrangements the

Government has made

Government has made clear to

Qantas would need to satisfy

both the Qantas Sale Act but would also of course

potentially, depending upon the

nature of any potential

agreement, need to be approved

by the Treasurer under the

provisions of the foreign

investment review board. Who

would have the most to gain out

of this, Qantas or BA? Well,

look, what we're seeing is a

consolidation in the global

aviation industry. We've seen

Air France and KLM, we've seen

Lufthansa engaged in mergers or

takeovers with airlines nearby

and indeed even with BMI at the

moment so we are seeing

globally, particularly with the

northern hemisphere carriers, a

consolidation. The real growth

in global aviation has been the

mid hemisphere hubs, the Middle

East, Singapore, Hong Kong,

which have an age over airlines

that are located at either - in

either hemisphere, clearly. So

certainly in Europe there's

been that consolidation. We

would want to be satisfied that

any changes are in had

Australian national interest

and the Government is watching

closely these negotiations. And

just to confirm before the

hairs start running, this is

not a question of Qantas being

sold off to British airways or

anyone else? Well, certainly

as it's been reported and

discussed between Qantas's

advice to the Government, it's

certainly that that isn't the

case. Were that to be the case,

the Government certainly

wouldn't support it and has the

power under the act to make

sure any moves such as that

would be blocked. We think that

it is in Australia's

nationaltrusts that we have an

Australian based aviation

industry. That is what the

aviation green paper was about that

that we released yesterday. We

think that as an island

continent located where we are

in the world, aviation is

absolutely critical to us

economically but also for our

social and cultural links to

the globe and we're reminded

again just this week of how

important having a national important having a national

carrier such as Qantas is. On

Saturday night I spoke with

Alan Joyce, the new cEO of

Qantas, about putting on extra

flights in order to assist

Australian citizens to depart

from Thailand. Qantas, as is

usually the case to their

credit, or without exception,

Qantas agreed to do that and

set about very quickly putting

on extra flights and they've

occurred already out of Phuket.

Now, the need for a national

aviation industry is also an

issue of national scpurt. It

goes beyond economic and social