Prime Minister Tony Abbott says the opposition must want Virgin to have an advantage since it won’t unshackle Qantas.
He says Labor’s refusal to “take the shackles away” by supporting proposed changes to the Qantas Sale Act means it wants Virgin to have a better deal.
“I’m all in favour of Virgin. I think they’re a fine airline,” he told parliament during question time on Tuesday.
“But as long as (Opposition Leader Bill Shorten) persists in his current position, he is giving Virgin a better deal than Qantas.
“Why would any Australian want to see the big flying kangaroo disadvantaged?”
Mr Abbott confirmed cabinet had considered giving Qantas a debt guarantee.
“They asked for it, we thought about it and we rejected it,” he said, twice.
Opposition transport spokesman Anthony Albanese questioned Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss about his view in December that amending the Qantas Sale Act would not be favoured by the public and would simply be a “waste of time and political energy”.
“Why is this now the government’s sole initiative to assist Qantas?” Mr Albanese asked.
But Mr Truss turned the question back on federal Labor, saying he had had “little hope” at the time Labor would ever agree to the amendment.
“At that time I … was very pessimistic that the opposition would have sufficient vision, sufficient foresight, sufficient faith in Qantas, to allow appropriate changes to occur to the Qantas Sale Act,” he said to jeers from the opposition.
“Since that time, Qantas’s position has become markedly worse.”
Mr Albanese unsuccessfully attempted to table a transcript of the comments.
“I’m trying to assist the minister here….I’m trying to do it politely…I do try.”
Speaker Bronwyn Bishop stood him down.
“Sometimes you’re a bit trying,” she said.