Qantas question time
The opposition fails to elicit the promise of a government debt guarantee for Qantas during question time on Thursday.PT0M0S 620 349
Changing the Qantas Sale Act to allow more foreign ownership would not be enough to secure the national carrier's future, says chief executive Alan Joyce.
Mr Joyce, who announced a $252 million first half loss and plans to shed 5000 jobs on Thursday, said he had not given up hope of securing a federal government debt guarantee despite Prime Minister Tony Abbott cooling on the idea. He will meet unions on Friday in Sydney to discuss the job losses.
Despite Treasurer Joe Hockey previously signalling that the government was open to the debt guarantee, Mr Abbott told Parliament on Thursday it would be unfair to make the company a special case.
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce says changing the Sale Act is not enough to secure the airline's future. Photo: Penny Stephens
''Why should the government do for one what it is not prepared to do for all, or what is not necessarily available for all?'' Mr Abbott said in question time.
Instead the Abbott government has indicated that it is drafting legislation to change the Qantas Sale Act, which caps total foreign ownership of the company at 49 per cent.
But Mr Joyce said on Friday that while changing the Sale Act would ''balance up where we are in the market'', it was a ''medium to long-term issue''.
''What we're talking to the government about is what we are doing in the short term to take the distortions out of the playing field,'' Mr Joyce told ABC radio.
''We're still in dialogue with them and we're still talking to them about what they need to do in order to balance up the short-term problems that are there. They recognise it, they know they have to do something and we're working with them on what that something is.''
Mr Abbott on Friday denied there was a difference between his position and Mr Hockey's.
''Joe and I and (Deputy Prime Minister) Warren Truss have been in very regular dialogue on this issue,'' he said.
''I again make the point that what you do for one business you have to be prepared to do for all like businesses and that's the issue that we face with the request for a debt guarantee or a line of credit for Qantas.''
Mr Joyce countered the Prime Minister saying that guaranteeing the debt of all airlines would not improve Qantas' situation.
''I don't know how if you give something to every player on the pitch how it levels the pitch back up – it just keeps the distortion there,'' he said.
Although there is bipartisan agreement for some form of government assistance for Qantas, the government and opposition can not agree what form that assistance should take.
Labor and the Greens oppose the government's preferred option of changing the Qantas Sale Act's foreign ownership restrictions but support a debt guarantee.
If the government is unable to secure the changes to the Sale Act in this Senate, it will have to rely on the support of senators from businessman and politician Clive Palmer' Palmer United Party, who may have the balance of power in the Senate after July.
However, Mr Palmer on Thursday night, said again that he would not support majority foreign ownership of Qantas.
''There will be no amendments to the Qantas Sale Act that our senators will vote for,'' Mr Palmer told the ABC. ''I've discussed it with all of them and there'll be no amendments to the act and that'll be it.''
But the Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA) called on both major federal political parties to accept a compromise deal on the Qantas Sale Act.
''The current political debate over the Qantas Sale Act is unnecessarily absolutist,'' AIPA president Nathan Safe said in a statement on Friday.