News National Qantas pressures are not causing rifts, says Abbott

Qantas pressures are not causing rifts, says Abbott

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Prime Minister Tony Abbott says there is no rift within the government over support for Qantas.

Earlier in February, Treasurer Joe Hockey suggested the government could provide a debt guarantee to the ailing airline, as the edict about ending corporate welfare did not apply because it operated in a distorted market.

He said there was a “price to be paid by the community” for laws restricting Qantas’ ability to operate freely.

Under the Qantas Sale Act, the airline must remain majority Australian-owned and keep its headquarters and key operations in Australia.

The airline, which on Thursday announced $2 billion in job cuts and other measures over three years, is seeking a debt guarantee to shore up its credit rating and a repeal of the act so it can seek foreign partners.

Mr Abbott told parliament this week that if the government provided a guarantee to Qantas, it would have to offer it to other airlines such as its key competitor, Virgin Australia.

The prime minister told reporters in Darwin on Friday that he and the treasurer had been in “regular dialogue” on the issue, which would continue.

“Qantas is an iconic Australian business,” he said.

“It has been and should be one of the world’s great airlines.

“The duty of government is to do everything we reasonably can to take the costs off Qantas and to allow it to compete on a level playing field with everyone else. That is why we are looking at changing the Qantas Sale Act.”

Mr Abbott said Labor could ease pressure on Qantas by backing the change, as well as repealing the carbon tax.