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Transcript of news conference, RAAF base Fairbairn

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JOURNALIST: Andrew Peacock now seems to be suggesting that you should be using your authority to convene a summit between the airlines and the pilots to bring this thing to

an end.

PM: Well Peter you're a bit of a genius if you can understand what Mr Peacock is suggesting. As I read the transcript yesterday, and as those writing today are interpreting it, they find it impossible to understand what Mr Peacock is saying in the course of five minutes. He's

saying several different things, which is now highlighted by the fact that of course Mr Howard is starting to resurrect himself as saying quite opposite things to Mr Peacock. The sad fact that we're faced with is this, very simple. The

airline pilots of Australia are pursuing the Peacock policy of industrial relations. That, naturally enough, is causing him some embarrassment. He is completely confused now. On the one hand he says what the Government is doing is right and then he says no you should be back in the system. At

the same time he says you should opt out of the system. When you opt out of the system I'll bring in more penalties in the system to hit you people who are outside the system.

It is by definition a nonsense. The Opposition this week in the Parliament has not asked any questions about the economy. They have concentrated on being what in fact they are, the apologists for the pilots, which is not surprising because the pilots are carrying out the Peacock industrial

relations policy.

JOURNALIST: OK, well where do we go with this dispute? What happens now?

PM: We go in this way. The Government and the airlines say they are not going to accept the Federation's demand for a 30% increase. It's totally outside the guidelines and the system. You have a situation now where the pilots have

resigned and what is happening is that the airlines, properly, are seeking to employ a workforce of pilots now. Hopefully they would get a lot of those who were their previous employees. If they can't get them they will get others. They will do that on a basis which will

significantly improve the productivity of the airlines. One thing that will come out of the dispute is that instead of


having the obscenity - and it's nothing short of that, an obscenity - of pilots flying eight hours a week for $80,000 I might say, that out of the process of negotiation that will take place you will get a very massive increase in productivity.

JOURNALIST: In the meantime then what happens to the other people who work for the airlines?

PM: On them, the question of standowns. I have put the position quite clearly from the beginning. That is that we would hope that there be no standowns. The airlines early in the piece raised with me orally the question of whether

there could be some compensation, relief to them in terms of the dispute. I said, that was a week ago, this is a matter which would need to be looked at later on if they wanted to raise it then it could be raised by them. Let's see if the

dispute was settled early. It hasn't been. The airlines have now, I received yesterday letters from the airline which have formally raised this question. I've said well, we'll look at it. That we will do.

JOURNALIST: In what way?

PM: What do you mean what way will we look at it?

PM: ... start standing down people. What can the Government do -PM: What they are saying, that they are incurring very significant costs and as they are there fighting this fight

to, in terms of the system and to ensure that the system doesn't break down, they are asking the Government to look at some form of compensation. As they indicated, and as I've said in Parliament and publicly beforehand, they might write to us. They have 'now. I'm simply saying when I say we'll look at it, I will talk with Ministers about it at an

appropriate time. We'll consider their request. But that's something for discussion with Ministers and it will be done I would imagine early next week. I'll look at it early next week with Ministers.

JOURNALIST: How much money would that involve?

PM: I'm not going to the question of details of that now. For one reason, one is not sure as to the amounts. There would have to be discussions with the airlines. What you have to do is to look at the question of the principle of it

first, see if in the circumstances it's appropriate. If you think it is then you get into the question of details as to what would be involved.

JOURNALIST: Do you think it's inevitable that there will have to be some layoff of staff or are you prepared to look at keeping the airlines able to maintain all staff levels?

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PM: It'll be part of the considerations that we'll have to undertake in response to the letter they have written to us. You can see it's very difficult for unions, other unions employed by the airlines, unions who have undoubtedly very

strong bargaining power and who could themselves have attempted to be very avaricious to forget the interests of the nation, make claims and do very much damage to the economy. Now they haven't done that. They are faced with a

situation where you've got this very small group of avaricious pilots who don't give a damn about the interests of the Australian economy. When these other people employed by the airlines say well we've done the right thing, these people are going to cause us to be put out of work and we'll

lose income, and we've done the right thing, it's something you've got to take into account.