News National Qantas: Federal Govt plays down debt guarantee chance

Qantas: Federal Govt plays down debt guarantee chance

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The Federal Government is playing down the likelihood it is about to give Qantas a debt guarantee, ahead of the release of the airline’s half-yearly results.

The airline is expected to unveil a multi-million dollar loss for the past 12 months when it announces the results this morning.

It is refusing to comment on reports upwards of 5,000 jobs could be cut in the wake of the results.

The Government has been waiting to see Qantas’s half-yearly figures before it makes any decisions about how it might help the struggling airline.

There are several ways the Government could assist the company, including changing the Qantas Sale Act or providing the airline with a debt guarantee.

The Government is already drafting changes to the Sale Act but sources have told the ABC it is unlikely to offer a debt guarantee as an immediate solution.

Independent Senator Nick Xenophon says the Government should not help Qantas until it overhauls its management, which he says has “presided over a disastrous strategy”.

Earlier this month, Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce delivered a speech increasing pressure on Coalition MPs to “change” government policy or risk the airline losing its status as national carrier.

The act currently restricts foreign investment to 49 per cent in total and to 25 per cent for any one foreign entity.

It also requires that most of the airline’s heavy maintenance, flight operations and training – and the jobs associated with this work – be located in Australia.

Mr Abbott has repeatedly described the act as a “ball and chain” around Qantas and says the Government is considering legislation to cut it off.

But the Federal Opposition’s transport spokesman Anthony Albanese says any change would have far-reaching implications for the airline.

“If you removed the foreign investment restrictions with regard to Qantas you would have to split up Qantas and have its international arm remain majority Australian-owned in order to comply with the Air Navigation Act and those international agreements that are in place,” he said.

The Air Navigation Act requires carriers to keep Australian majority ownership in order to gain the rights to routes in and out of Australia.

More broadly, Mr Albanese says the foreign investment restrictions are “in the interests of national security”.

“The likely owners of Qantas and controllers of Qantas would be another airline which is backed either whole or in part through the sort of subsidies that occur around the world by another government,” he said.

“Now at that point in time, Qantas effectively ceases to exist as an Australian-backed airline.”