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Wednesday, 2 November 2011
Page: 12495

Qantas


Mr CHEESEMAN (Corangamite) (14:27): My question is to the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport. Would the minister advise the House on the circumstances leading up to the decision of Qantas to lock out its workforce and to ground its fleet?


Mr ALBANESE (GrayndlerLeader of the House and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (14:28): I thank the member for Corangamite for his question. Qantas has confirmed that the first time it advised the government that there was any consideration of a lockout of its workforce and a grounding of the fleet was after 2 pm on Saturday. The government acted immediately. By 10 pm the government was with the office of Fair Work Australia seeking a stop to this decision. Just over 24 hours later, we had the decision that ensured that Qantas planes returned to the air on Monday afternoon. Today Qantas is back, running its full schedule. The parties have 21 days to get an agreement done and the government calls upon both Qantas and the trade unions to bargain in good faith during this time and get this deal done in the interests of Qantas and in the interests of its workforce. Both parties must show some maturity. The response of the community to this proposed lockout and grounding has been extraordinary, because when you lock out a workforce and shut down an airline you also lock out the customers. So we need to make sure that this deal gets done.

We know—because Qantas has confirmed it—when we were told. The Leader of the Opposition yesterday confirmed that he was called about the specific 5 pm grounding on Saturday. What he has not said is when he was told that they were considering locking out the workforce and grounding their fleet.

Opposition members interjecting

Mr Pyne: Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I ask you: how it can be in order when the Leader of the Opposition made a personal explanation about this matter yesterday and answered questions about this yesterday and today in press conferences? How can it be in order for the Leader of the House to make the same misrepresentations that he made yesterday?

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order! For the newer members that believe they can adjudicate, I am about to give them a lesson. This has been a problem that this House has had for many, many years. It is interesting that when people change sides, their interpretation of this problem is different. As the member for Sturt is aware, as frustrating as it might be and as illogical as it might be, the House has never tackled this problem. There is only one thing that I can advise: there are avenues and procedures within the House that an aggrieved member can take yet again, even if it is an iteration.

Mr ALBANESE: I am asked about the circumstances leading up to the Qantas decision to lock out its workforce and ground its fleet, and I think that the Australian public are entitled to know.

Opposition members interjecting

Mr ALBANESE: It is true that the Leader of the Opposition changed his position with regard to intervention last Friday.

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order! The House will come to order! Order, the member for Sturt!

Mr ALBANESE: What is also true is that the shadow Treasurer had for some time called for government intervention. Last night we saw the shadow Treasurer on the 7.30 report melt down when he was asked when he knew that Qantas was considering locking out its workforce and grounding its fleet. He said that he could not recall.

Mr Ripoll interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Oxley might get to go and have a fondue if he does not sit there quietly.

Mr Pyne: Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Firstly, Mr Speaker, the Leader of the House is completely ignoring you when you ask him to sit down, which is totally disrespectful. Secondly, how could it be directly relevant for the Leader of the House to be shouting across the dispatch box about the answer to the question? He is completely not answering the question that he was asked just so that he can do a 'slag and bag' on the Leader of the Opposition.

Government members interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Sturt will resume his seat, and the Chief Government Whip will resume his seat too.

Mr Ewen Jones interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order, the member for Herbert! I would have hoped that he had learned a lesson yesterday. I simply say to the member for Sturt: if he had listened to the question, the minister was asked to advise the House of circumstances leading up to the Qantas decision to stand down the workforce and ground its fleet. Regrettably, it is a fairly wide question.

Mr Abbott interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order! The only relevance that I am worried about, Leader of the Opposition, is that, if I am disturbed about other people being interrupted, I am awfully disturbed when it is the occupant of the chair. I will make the ruling and, again, there are avenues open to him if he has a problem. All I am simply saying is that, because the House has not dealt with the standing orders, argument is allowed in responses. There may be too much argument in this response, but it is allowed under the standing orders. The Minister for Transport and Infrastructure has the call.

Mr ALBANESE: I can understand the sensitivity there.

Opposition members interjecting

Mr ALBANESE: It is quite extraordinary that the shadow Treasurer of the nation is told that Qantas is considering locking out its workforce, with all the implications for the national economy, and he says, 'I cannot recall when I was told.' With that sort of memory, no wonder he cannot find the $70 billion that is down that black hole.

The SPEAKER: Order! The minister will come back to the question.

Mr ALBANESE: With that sort of memory, no wonder he cannot find that $70 billion. The shadow Treasurer and others need to come clean about when they were told that Qantas was considering locking out its workforce. (Time expired)

Honourable members interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order! The member for North Sydney has the call and he will be heard in silence.