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Monday, 31 October 2011
Page: 12034


Mr CHEESEMAN (Corangamite) (14:40): My question is to the Treasurer. Will the Treasurer update the House on the economic impacts of the recent actions taken by Qantas?

Mr SWAN (LilleyDeputy Prime Minister and Treasurer) (14:40): I thank the member for Corangamite for his question. As members are aware, on Saturday afternoon Qantas took the extraordinary action of grounding its entire international and domestic fleet. This action posed very significant risk to our economy, to employment and to the business community more generally, and that is why the Prime Minister took immediate and decisive action to get Fair Work Australia involved. The consequence of that is that planes are going to be back in the air. We understand the seriousness of the situation, even if those opposite do not. They might think they can play a political game with this, but these matters are too serious for the politicking of those opposite. We took our responsibilities extremely seriously. I want to explain to the House why we took our responsibilities so seriously.

In August Qantas carried a massive 1.5 million domestic passengers; that is something like 50,000 passengers a day. In the same month it carried half a million international passengers. So this decision of Qantas to lock out its workforce—without notice—posed a very significant risk to our national economy. The decision by Fair Work Australia was a significant breakthrough in resolving this difficult dispute, because what we would have seen if this were a protracted dispute is knock-on effects right through our economy.

I am a Queenslander; I understand the importance of aviation to the tourist industry. But it is not just the tourist industry. We understand the importance of aviation when it comes to our mining industry—for example, fly-in fly-out miners. All of these are immediately affected—and that is before you go to the tens of thousands of businesses in the tourist industry and elsewhere—everybody, right down the supply chain, who would have been affected if this dispute had gone on. So the Prime Minister acted decisively and acted immediately to deal with this dispute.

But what we are hearing in the House today is the game playing and the politicking of those opposite. The Leader of the Opposition is all opposition and no leadership. He would rather see the country fail than the government succeed. But, when you get to a difficult national issue like this, you have to put the national interest first, and this government will always put the national interest first. We did it during the global recession and the global financial crisis, despite the opposition of all of those opposite who did not want to see us stimulate the economy. This side of the House will always put jobs first. We will always try to do everything we can to keep the doors of small business open, because we are committed to the national interest. They are just committed to their own selfish political interests.