An easing of foreign ownership restrictions on Australia’s national airline, Qantas, could devastate the iconic flying kangaroo, a federal parliamentarian warns.

Independent Senator Nick Xenophon is wary of moves to lift laws requiring 51 per cent of Qantas be Australian owned.

‘‘My fear is that Qantas will either be vulnerable to a private equity takeover or foreign takeover,’’ Senator Xenophon said this morning of changes to ownership guidelines.

‘‘Both scenarios are bad for Australian jobs, for Qantas’s international and national reputation and my fear is the Qantas we know today will just become a shadow of itself.’’

Qantas boss Alan Joyce says the airline needs Canberra to urgently address ownership regulations or risk investments such as a heavy maintenance base at Brisbane.

‘‘Qantas will not be able to compete on the same terms as the competition if they have access to this foreign capital, and don’t care about losing money,’’ Mr Joyce said in reference to news Virgin will be propped up by a $350 million injection from its foreign investors.

Treasurer Joe Hockey says it’s time for a debate about airline ownership laws.

‘‘We still need to properly deal with the aviation transformation that has occurred in Australia, and deal with the legacy of Qantas continuing to have shareholding restrictions when their competition does not have exactly the same restrictions,’’ he told a business lunch in Sydney.

Current ownership guidelines impose limits but also provide the national carrier with ‘‘privileges’’, such as air traffic priority, Labor MP Nick Champion said.

Any changes should balance investment with Australian job security, he told Sky News today. ‘‘It’s important we have a national carrier and a national maritime line.

They are important things for our island nation to have,’’ Mr Champion added.

AAP