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Friday, 11 October 1985
Page: 1065


Senator COONEY(10.22) —We have heard a series of speeches in this debate on the Qantas Airways Limited (Loan Guarantee) Bill 1985 which, at best, praise Qantas Airways Ltd with overwhelming censure. The trend of the speeches so far has been to say that Qantas has been successful, that it has had a good safety record and that it is making a profit, but there are criticisms. The speeches have tended to concentrate on those criticisms rather than look at the very good record this company has had in Australia, particularly since the early 1980s when changes occurred in its structure. Since that time Qantas has traded well, has flown more hours, has made greater profits and has contributed to the wealth that comes into this nation. That must be remembered in the context of the criticisms that have been made.


Senator Watson —Could it not have done better? That is the point we are making.


Senator COONEY —We can always do better. We could ask Senator Watson's question of any company in either the private or the public sector. They can always do better. That is the purpose of good management. It is the very purpose of always looking to see how improvements can be made. It is in that context that this Bill is before the House. The Bill guarantees loans to be raised by Qantas to buy another aeroplane which will make its service more attractive and its operations more efficient. As Senator Watson said, it can always do better. This Bill is one of the pieces of machinery which is being used to make it better.

Senator Watson and Senator Jones have criticised the fact that Qantas went overseas to have its uniform designed. That is a fair criticism. However, that sort of criticism has to be balanced against the praise and approbation that should be given to Qantas for the overall thrust of its activities in this decade, which thrust is towards making the company a better airline and a national flag carrier we can be proud of.

Senator Collard and Senator Watson have both indicated that the Opposition will now support this Bill. There were some concerns about that because earlier it was thought that denying this Bill a passage might be a means of easing the situation which had resulted from industrial activity that had been undertaken or was threatened by the Transport Workers Union. I refer to the meat dispute which has been occuring in Australia and simply say that when legislation comes before the House and opposition to it is predicated on the proposition that that opposition might relieve an industrial situation which might otherwise arise, that is the sort of activity that is aimed at by section 45D of the Trade Practices Act. In opposing legislation, a secondary boycott is threatened in order to relieve a situation elsewhere. There is certainly irony in the passage of legislation being threatened in order to relieve a situation elsewhere. That is the sort of scenario at which section 45D is aimed. I am glad that the Opposition's earlier intention has been reversed and that this Bill will now be put through the House with a unanimous support. However, listening to the speech of Senator Sanders, I wondered about that because the thrust of that speech was that the Bill ought to be opposed-


Senator Collard —Was there a thrust?


Senator COONEY —That was not only the thrust, but as I understand it, the Australian Democrats may intend to oppose the Bill. Senator Sanders was quite derogatory of the efforts that Qantas had made over the years and, as I understood him, not even its safety record was worthy of any praise. He seemed to think that the very good safety record of Qantas was a matter of some luck. In fact he almost seemed to suggest that it was a matter of some regret-there seemed to be a note of regret in his voice-that there had not been some sort of crash to indicate that the safety record of which Qantas is so proud was one that it really did not merit. That seemed to be the thrust of his speech because he used phrases such as `all flying is safe'. The intent of such statements seemed to be to denigrate this airline. He said that Qantas did not compare in its efficiency with the airlines in the United States. The one airline that he mentioned was Continental and after recent events in Victoria, it is a wonder that he put that forward as one of the airlines that we should admire. Nevertheless, that seemed to be his proposition.

It seemed unusual to me that he should use the United States as a basis for comparison with Australia. In the United States there is a population which is well in excess of 10 times our own and to say that because a particular system works in the United States it will work here is to make a proposition which is too unsophisticated to bear thinking about. Of course with the Unites States' high population there will be more airlines flying, more air routes and more people catching aeroplanes. In Australia we have a very sparse population set in various areas around the country. That population depends absolutely on airlines. Of course those routes will be expensive because of the number of passengers using them is not as great as elsewhere. Instead of looking at that, seeing the positive contributions that these airlines make, and taking the attitude that Senator Watson took when he said that the airlines were doing a good job but they should improve, Senator Sanders entered on a very destructive course of condemning outright the airlines which operate in this country and our flag carrier overseas.

Senator Sanders said that the answer to all this was deregulation. One wonders again whether the deregulation he talked about as having saved Continental was the same deregulation that produced the present situation in Victoria. That appeared to be the proposition that he put forward. It is very difficult to see where the Democrats stand on this matter, but it seems as if they are opposing the Bill because that is the thrust of Senator Sanders's remarks.

Leaving aside the Democrats, the rest of the Senate supports this Bill to improve the capacity of this airline, which has been highly successful this decade. Qantas made a profit in the 1984-85 financial year. It flew 7.4 per cent more hours than it did in 1983-84 and it carried 15.8 per cent more passengers than it did in the previous year. Qantas's seat factor rose to 64.2 per cent, the highest since 1980-81, and its total revenue increased by 15.3 per cent to $2,219m. In addition the average number of employees rose by 3.1 per cent to 11,710 and the average staff strength increased. Qantas has provided better services, employment and profit. In those circumstances it is only appropriate that this Bill, which gives a guarantee by the Government of borrowings by the company-a statutory authority-so that it can buy another aeroplane to increase the services it has so happily provided to date, should be supported.