Australian Government coat of arms

Prime Minister of Australia

The Hon Tony Abbott MP

Interview with David Koch, Sunrise, Seven Network

04 March 2014

Prime Minister

Subjects:

Qantas.

E&OE

DAVID KOCH:

Prime Minister Tony Abbott joins me now. Prime Minister, good morning to you.

Now you say the Government is not in the business of handing out cheques to private business, but are you concerned a large international investor might do just that and take over our national airline?

PRIME MINISTER:

What I want to do is give Qantas its freedom, not a subsidy and that’s what it needs; it needs its freedom.

The interesting thing is that the Labor Party sold Qantas two decades ago, but now they’re refusing to give this great Australian airline the freedom that their former minister, Martin Ferguson, wanted to give it back in 2002.

But we are determined to do this. We think this is the best way, Kochie, of ensuring that Qantas has a future as one of the world’s great airlines.

DAVID KOCH:

Ok. We all have a soft spot for Qantas – our national airline, the red kangaroo reminds us of home whenever we travel overseas – but can you put caveats on it saying, hey limit any job losses or jobs going overseas to x amount, protect the Qantas brand, if it is taken over, the Qantas name will still be there?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, this idea that just because there is a great percentage of foreign ownership, somehow the airline ceases to be Australian is highly debatable. I mean, look at Virgin. Virgin is about 60 per cent overseas owned and yet Virgin employs Australians, it carries Australians, in times of trouble it’s there for Australians – why is Qantas fundamentally Australian in a way that Virgin is not? I just don’t believe that is, any more, a particularly important distinction.

DAVID KOCH:

Ok. The Greens, Labor, Palmer Party have all said they’re not going to agree to this. How are you going to get it through?

PRIME MINISTER:

I don’t think people are going to sit there and watch Qantas bleed. I think the important thing is to allow Qantas to compete on a level playing field. I want to have two competitive, successful, effective airlines competing on a level playing field and that’s what the Government’s proposing to create.

As I said, I don’t think that these other people in the long run are going to twiddle their thumbs while Qantas bleeds. Let’s face it, it was Martin Ferguson – a Labor Cabinet minister – who back in 2002 said that Qantas should be given its freedom, not a subsidy.

DAVID KOCH:

Ok, but it is shackled by the unions isn’t it? It is a crazy company that can’t survive when you have 20 unions, 60 enterprise bargaining agreements for one job category. Often there are three different types of EBA – an old one, you know, that you can take all your family around the world for nothing, a middle one and a modern one. A company can’t survive on that. What’s your challenge to the unions to come and help Qantas out?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well this is an issue for management, it’s an issue for staff and the best way to ensure that Qantas has a strong future as one of the world’s great airlines is for the management and staff to sort all this out and I’m sure that’s exactly what they’ll be doing in the weeks and months ahead.

DAVID KOCH:

Ok. Are you confident Qantas can recover and flourish again under your changes?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, if you go back over the last decade, for much of the time Qantas has been hugely profitable. Now, under good management, there is no reason why Qantas cannot be very profitable; there’s no reason why Qantas can’t continue to be one of the world’s great airlines. But they don’t need a subsidy, they need their freedom and that’s what the Government is offering them.

DAVID KOCH:

Ok. Prime Minister, thanks for joining us.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thanks Kochie.

[ends]