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Wednesday, 18 March 1987
Page: 1024

Mr LLOYD —My question is addressed to the Minister for Aviation. Will the Government sell Australian Airlines to the Australian public and use private investment to maintain our airport terminals? If not, will the Minister assure Australian taxpayers that they will not be asked to contribute hundreds of millions of dollars over the next five years, which will be essential to maintain Australian Airlines as a viable entity and to bring our international airport terminals up to the standard necessary to maintain our tourist growth?

Mr PETER MORRIS —I thank the honourable member for his question. It is the height of hypocrisy to have that kind of question coming from the Opposition, an Opposition whose members, when in government, deliberately ran down Australian Airlines, deliberately starved it of capital and deliberately extracted all of its profit almost in one year by way of dividend. The Deputy Leader of the National Party of Australia said in this chamber in 1983 that that airline was forced to operate with one wing tied behind its back. It was not the Government that said that; it was the Deputy Leader of the National Party who had been the Minister responsible. So the honourable member should not come to me or to this Government bewailing the damage that honourable members opposite inflicted upon Australian Airlines and the difficulties that they created throughout the aviation industry generally. The honourable member should talk to his own colleague the Deputy Leader of the National Party. He will explain to the honourable member why Australian Airlines did not perform as well as it should have under the Government of honourable members opposite. Under this Government Australian Airlines' legislation has been relaxed; it has been given greater freedom, greater independence and greater responsibility to perform; and it is performing far better than it ever has done in the past. In respect of the sale of the airline, that is not government policy. I quote the words of the Prime Minister from his statement of 8 March in Bathurst. He was asked:

Does the Government intend to sell Australian Airlines?

The Prime Minister said:

The Government has no intention in that regard.

I do not propose to add anything to the answer given by the Prime Minister on that occasion and, if the honourable member is so concerned, I will provide him with the transcript of the Prime Minister's answer.