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The Australian Federation of Air Pilots has welcomed moves towards privatisation of Australian Airlines and Qantas

RICHARD PALFREYMAN: Of course, another major player in the new world of privatised airlines and deregulated skies, will be the Australian Federation of Air Pilots. The incoming president, following their leader during last year's devastating strike, Captain Brian McCarthy, is Captain Robert Nicholson of Adelaide based Ross Air. At Adelaide airport this morning, Captain Nicholson explained to Peter Rapp why the Federation welcomed last night's Cabinet decision.

ROBERT NICHOLSON: Well, the Pilots' Federation has been one of the leaders in the privatisation debate with regard to Australian Airlines. We have a paper tabled with the ALP Policy Review Committee which expresses an interest if it is going to be privatised, the employees, both pilots and other airline employees, should have a major say in how it goes.

PETER RAPP: Would you prefer a 49 percent or more, 100 percent?

ROBERT NICHOLSON: I haven't got a particular preference but I would think, even though Compass was over-subscribed, you'll notice that share prices on the open market have slightly declined. I think if they went more than 49 percent at this stage, it may be a bit of a fire sale. It's up to the ALP convention now to work out what they want to do.

PETER RAPP: Are you worried about overseas money coming in? That'll represent different priorities from Australian capital.

ROBERT NICHOLSON: Well, it always represents different priorities with whoever you've got in management. Overseas airline or money may put a different emphasis in management. We'll have to deal with that when it occurs.

PETER RAPP: Will it mean some of your members, who've been out of a job since the pilots' strike, could get their jobs back? It'll be sort of a circuit breaker. Do you see it in that way at all?

ROBERT NICHOLSON: I think it could be a circuit breaker. There may be a slight change in the attitudes of management. You have to appreciate the international airlines in the South East Asia region are expanding quite rapidly and the Australian ones are currently contracting, maybe due to funds and to the ongoing passenger reluctance to fly in Australia. I think with an injection of funds, it would possibly be a greater role for us to play and our members to play in the new airline.

PETER RAPP: With deregulation too, do you think Australia's looking at a revamped, more modern, more popular domestic air service, cheaper fares, more people taking advantage of the service?

ROBERT NICHOLSON: I think you'll see there's a reluctance at the moment, I think, by the public, to travel with the major airlines and in the future, when the new start-ups happen after deregulation, I think there'll be a great increase in the flying public.

RICHARD PALFREYMAN: How much, I mean it's pretty minuscule at the moment, isn't it?

ROBERT NICHOLSON: Well it's, you know, depends what stories you believe. The airlines are putting out certain figures saying everything is back to normal passenger numbers. I think the market share between the two airlines, which used to be around equal, has changed dramatically, I think in the favour of Australian Airlines and the new start-ups, as you see with the Compass over subscription, there is quite a lot of the general public that are very very keen to go with a new operator, and I think regardless of what their fare levels will be.

PETER RAPP: Do you think the pilots themselves will be buying into Australian Airlines?

ROBERT NICHOLSON: The Pilots' Federation as such, did a major policy paper on the effects of privatisation of Australian Airlines, neither being necessarily for or against it, but believing that the Federation and its members, as with all the other union members in the Australian Airlines, should have a say and be able to get equity in that organisation.

PETER RAPP: Do you think many will?

ROBERT NICHOLSON: Oh, there's a possibility that some will.