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Thursday, 24 June 2004
Page: 31756

Ms LIVERMORE (10:38 AM) —I wish to draw the attention of the House to the continuing and obviously deliberate plan by Qantas management to reduce the company's cost structure by abandoning their obligations to regional Australia and cutting the number of Australians they employ. It always disappoints me to see the management of a company like Qantas, whose executives receive multimillion dollar salary packages, taking the easy way to increase profits. How easy it is to shut down a number of services and employ cheap overseas labour. Any first year management student could do that. The real challenge for the management of companies like Qantas is to create a bigger company with a bigger network, employing more Australians in more locations, and to do it at a profit. Going for growth does not mean just going for a bigger profit. That is easy, and the corporate world is full of leftover hatchet men from the nineties. Their creed of firing half the staff and closing down half the business is now totally discredited. But we find that Qantas is now set on such a course, and this will inevitably end in tears.

I condemn the Qantas decision to move 400 Australian jobs offshore, just as I condemn the Qantas decision to abandon services to the major Queensland centres of Rockhampton and Mackay. By their actions, the management of Qantas has lost the confidence of regional Australia and now, by moving 400 Australian jobs offshore, every Australian would doubt the right of Qantas to use the slogan: `Qantas—the Australian way'. As we look at this drive by Qantas management for nothing more than greater shareholder return, we find that the actions of this Howard government are giving Qantas management an excuse for some of their actions. Airservices Australia have recently issued their proposed new charges for providing aviation rescue and firefighting services to airports around Australia. If ever there were a case to make for the Howard government's policies being the root cause of loss of services to regional Australia, this is it.

The current charge on an airline for the provision of rescue and fire services at airports is measured in total cost per tonne landed, and by this measure the cost per tonne landed in Mackay is $9.98, while the cost per tonne landed in Rockhampton is $9.59. These are the two highest charges in Australia. By comparison, the cost per tonne landed in Melbourne is only $1.09, while the cost per tonne landed in Sydney is a mere 69c. There can be no doubt that the fact that Mackay and Rockhampton are the most expensive airports in Australia to land at was a factor in the decision by Qantas management to abandon some services to these two Central Queensland cities.

And the situation under the Howard government will only get worse. For the coming financial year—2004-05—the charges for rescue and firefighting services are set to rise, and the increases could only be described as staggering if you want to fly to Rockhampton or Mackay. The proposed new charge for Sydney is 75c per tonne landed, up from 69c. For Melbourne the new charge is $1.21 per tonne landed, up from $1.09. However, if you want to land your aircraft in Mackay it will now cost $19.16 per tonne landed, up from $9.98, while in Rockhampton the new charge will be $19.24 per tonne landed, up from $9.59. This makes the rescue and firefighting charges at Rockhampton the most expensive in Australia and those at Mackay the second most expensive.

Quite clearly, the Howard government does not want Rockhampton or Mackay to have air services at all, and there is no hope under this government of the situation improving. A look at the projected charges show that in the year 2008 Sydney will be at 83c per tonne landed while Melbourne will be at $1.29 per tonne landed. However, at Mackay the charge will be $21.06 per tonne landed, while Rockhampton will remain the most expensive in Australia, at $22.42 per tonne landed. I estimate that this will add an additional $20 to the price of an airline ticket out of Rockhampton or Mackay. That is an impost on the bottom line of many of our businesspeople, and it of course affects families and those people travelling for essential family and medical business. Labor's policy of network charging, on the other hand, would correct this injustice for regional airports around Australia and reduce the cost pressures on airlines like Virgin which want to service regional airports in Australia.