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Monday, 31 October 2011
Page: 12029


Mr CHAMPION (Wakefield) (14:18): Will the Prime Minister inform the House of the importance to the national economy of getting Qantas planes back in the air and Qantas workers back to work?

Mr Pyne interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Sturt is now warned.

Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:18): I thank the member for the question. I know that he and members of the government have been motivated at all times by the national interest. I will be very clear about this. On Saturday we saw an escalation of the Qantas dispute. We saw Qantas take extreme action. Qantas had alternatives. I have made it very clear to the CEO of Qantas that I do not believe this extreme action should have been taken. I do not believe that Qantas should have acted to leave tens of thousands of Australians stranded effectively without notice around Australia and in many other parts of the world. When Qantas advised the government that it was determined to take this course, that it was implementing grounding the planes at 5 pm on Saturday in preparation of a lockout of its workforce, the government concluded that this would be a course of action that could cause significant damage to the national economy and that the course the government should take is to intervene in the dispute.

We did intervene in the dispute and now the result is there for all Australians to see. Industrial action has been terminated and Qantas flights, during the course of this afternoon, will start returning to our skies. With Qantas flights returning to our skies from this afternoon, Qantas will commence working as normal over the next few days, its employees will commence working as normal, and that normal work pattern will continue. Industrial action has been terminated. The industrial parties now have an opportunity to sort the dispute out and, if they do not sort the dispute out, then at the end of 21 days Fair Work Australia can impose an outcome on them.

Throughout all of this, the priority of the government has been the circumstances of Australians who have been stranded in many parts of the country and overseas who have had to face up to that inconvenience. Of course we did take steps to ensure that we were providing consular assistance to those Australians who were stranded overseas. Our focus has also been on the national economy and the fact that industrial action has now been terminated is not just a win for passengers who were stranded, who will now see Qantas flights taking to the skies, it is a win for the one million Australians who work in the tourism industry. We were particularly concerned about their circumstances with the action by Qantas on the weekend.

The government, on Saturday afternoon, determined to intervene in this dispute because it was in the national interest to do so. Our swift intervention has ensured that industrial action is at an end. Our swift intervention has ensured that employees are back at work and that Qantas flights are starting to take to the sky. We have been motivated every step of the way by the interests of the national economy and by the circumstances of stranded passengers. It is a pity that the opposition is only motivated by the playing of cheap politics and the making of incorrect claims.