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Monday, 31 October 2011
Page: 12032


Mr ABBOTT (WarringahLeader of the Opposition) (14:30): My question is to the Prime Minister. Why was the Prime Minister prepared to call Alan Joyce and Tony Sheldon today, after the event, but not on Saturday—when she could have avoided all this pain to so many hundreds of thousands of Australians?

Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:31): What we see in that question is absolutely typical of the Leader of the Opposition. He comes in here and makes allegations based on no facts, because he is always interested in playing politics. I would make this observation: the happiest people in this nation when Fair Work Australia made its decision overnight were the travelling public who were stranded. The unhappiest people in this nation were the opposition, because it was going to wreck their strategy to play negative politics today. To the Leader of the Opposition I say: what a ridiculous question. As he well knows, from every public statement by Alan Joyce, the CEO of Qantas, Qantas had made a determination to ground planes at 5 pm.

Mr Pyne: Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. How can the Prime Minister's answer be relevant to a question about why a phone call could be made on a Monday but could not be made on a Saturday to avert the disaster of the last 48 hours?

Honourable members interjecting

Mr Dreyfus: That is a tactical objection, not a point of order.

Mr Randall interjecting

The SPEAKER: The Manager of Opposition Business will resume his seat. And for my learned colleagues—some of whom sit on my right—tactical interjections will not be tolerated at all. The member for Canning, who has been mentioned in dispatches on a number of occasions, is now warned! The point of order now is direct relevance, I remind the Manager of Opposition Business. The Prime Minister will be directly relevant to the question.

Ms GILLARD: Being very directly relevant to the question, the Leader of the Opposition is creating a misrepresentation in this parliament. The Leader of the Opposition is trying to pretend that the facts of this matter were that somehow a telephone call would have changed Qantas's determination to ground the fleet on Saturday. In asserting that, he is flying directly in the face of everything that Qantas has said about the reasons that it acted on Saturday and its grounding of the fleet. So who he is insulting by this conduct is actually not me. He is insulting the people at Qantas who were putting forward their argument in the public domain about why they acted. The people he is verballing are people like Alan Joyce, the CEO of Qantas. But, of course, treating people decently and respectfully is never high on the Leader of the Opposition's menu. The attitude that the Leader of the Opposition is taking today is to deliberately to create a falsehood in order to pursue his political negativity.

What the Leader of the Opposition actually cannot stand about all of this is that the fair work system did what it needed to do to get industrial action terminated. He cannot stand that. The reason he cannot stand that is that he hoped that this Qantas dispute would add to his political campaign to sow doubts about the fair work system, to soften the ground for Work Choices. That is what he is on about. I did speak to the industrial parties today. I acted on Saturday to get the industrial action terminated. It was terminated this morning. Following its termination, I spoke to the industrial parties to tell them to get around a table in this 21-day period, to do it early and to get this dispute fixed. To the Leader of the Opposition, who is now in here with his carry-on: I really do wonder where he was for all of the years of the Howard government. I remind him of someone called Peter Reith—

An honourable member: Did you vote for him?

Ms GILLARD: No, I don't think he did vote for him, as it happens. Maybe he is trying to forget who Peter Reith is. He certainly forgot to vote for him. The traditional disposition of the Liberal Party on these questions is against intervention in industrial disputes, and Peter Reith has made that absolutely clear. Indeed, in their days in office, the only time they intervened in industrial disputes with enthusiasm was when it was accompanied by dogs and balaclavas on the waterfront. We stand for fair work and a fair work system which is working. They stand for ripping off working people, and Mr Work Choices is shouting out his enthusiasm for doing that all over again.