Tuesday, 4th March 2014

IT'S A DUEL

"I reject this idea that Qantas is Australian and Virgin isn't," said Tony Abbott, "because let's face it, Virgin is employing Australians and it's serving Australians."

It's hard to imagine that Australians will be convinced by this new conception of what makes a company Australian. But it does clarify the political vulnerability of the government's stance on Qantas.

Abbott last night announced that his government wouldn't provide a debt guarantee to Qantas, but would seek to change the Qantas Sale Act, to "level the playing field". This would allow Qantas to open up its domestic operations to overseas buyers, as Virgin can, and send some jobs overseas. The decision would still require that Qantas' international operations remain in majority Australian hands - to keep the landing and access rights that go to a national carrier.

The government's decision is consistent with its "no handouts" line, but Cabinet had barely completed discussions when Qantas said that the proposal wouldn't provide any relief if it was blocked in the Senate. Which it will be, for the foreseeable future.

Neither the ALP, Greens or the Palmer party will support the sell-off.

The decision that Abbott and Hockey have settled on carries risks, and they know it, which partly explains the vacillating that came before. Aussie jobs. National pride. Flying kangaroos. These notions could easily overwhelm the dry economic argument.

For the moment, while the stand-off continues, Qantas' future belongs in its own hands. Which is perhaps as it should be.

Nick Feik
Politicoz Editor

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Qantas says Abbott plan unlikely to help

"Federal cabinet has agreed to remove the ­foreign-ownership restrictions on ­Qantas Airways, opening the way for a split of the airline’s domestic and international arms, as well as a protracted political fight. Labor followed the announcement by signalling it would oppose any changes to legislation affecting Qantas."

Qantas stalemate as Abbott and Shorten butt heads over the Flying Kangaroo

"Abbott says he believes Labor will give in because it won’t let Qantas “bleed”. But if the opposition doesn’t capitulate, or some compromise isn’t reached, the implication is that the government will let the airline “bleed”. Quite how that would play out would depend on how the company fared in the immediate future."

AlsoPolitical risk in testing national attachment (The Australian)

Manus Island riot: G4S employee contradicts leaked PNG police report into violence at detention centre

"An Australian employee of the G4S security firm on Manus Island says PNG police stood back and allowed locals to break into the compound last month, did nothing to stop them beating detainees, and in some cases participated in the violence and intimidation."

Australia ordered to cease spying on East Timor by International Court of Justice

"Australia has been ordered to cease spying on East Timor and its legal advisers, in a landmark decision by the International Court of Justice relating to a bitter dispute between the two countries over $40 billion of oil and gas reserves in the Timor Sea. The court also ruled that the Australian government must seal documents and data seized in an ASIO raid in December."

Country for old men: little diversity in Abbott’s picks

"It’s one thing to ask older, and often retired, figures to conduct reviews — they have the experience and, at least ostensibly, the detachment to bring an objective but informed mind to public policy. It’s quite another for almost the entirety of a government to be made up of such people... But these aren’t just any old white males."

FinallyLabor party complains government has run out of legislation to debate (Guardian)