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Thursday, 6 March 2014
Page: 1896


Mr SHORTEN (MaribyrnongLeader of the Opposition) (13:59): My question is to the Prime Minister. Does the Prime Minister acknowledge that the future of Qantas is a matter of national importance and, if so, why did the Prime Minister refuse to speak in the national parliamentary debate on the Qantas Sale Act before the government shut it down?

Mr ABBOTT (WarringahPrime Minister) (14:00): Of course the future of Qantas is absolutely vital, and that is why it is important that the parliament consider and deal with the bill that the government put before the parliament today to liberate Qantas from the shackles that it currently operates under. I say to members opposite: Labor was good enough to free Qantas from government ownership; now it has got to be good enough to liberate it from the restrictions under which it operates. Labor was good enough all those years ago to sell Qantas; now it has to be good enough to liberate Qantas. All the government is asking is for Qantas to get the same deal that Virgin gets. That is all we are asking. That is all we want. If it is good enough for Virgin, why isn't it good enough for Qantas too?

Let me remind the Leader of the Opposition that Virgin employs almost 10,000 Australians. It flies almost 20 million Australians every year. It operates some 140 planes here in Australia. It services planes in Australia. And you know, Madam Speaker, Virgin is growing. Why doesn't the Leader of the Opposition want to give the same deal to Qantas that he is prepared to accept for Virgin?

Mr Burke: Speaker, a point of order under standing order 104. It was about the Prime Minister's refusal to participate in the debate.

The SPEAKER: There is no point of order.

Mr ABBOTT: I am here participating in a debate over Qantas. I have done little else in question time over the last five days. I say to the opposition: it is one thing to participate in a debate. What about participating in a rescue? That is what I ask. What about participating in a rescue by giving Qantas the same fair deal that Virgin enjoys?