30 October 2011




MATT DORAN: And the Qantas drama is sure to dominate politics when Parliament returns this week. Let’s go head to head now with our political heavyweights. Finance Minister Penny Wong joins us from our Adelaide newsroom, and shadow immigration minister Scott Morrison is in our Sydney newsroom.


WONG: Good to be with you.

NATARSHA BELLING: Thanks for joining us tonight. Can I put the first question to you Penny Wong? In regards to this ongoing Qantas dispute, it is a complete disaster. We’ve even had tourism industry heads saying tonight that the Government should have intervened earlier. But there is criticism saying Julia Gillard hasn’t intervened because of Tony Sheldon’s role in this?

WONG: This has been today, and yesterday, a dramatic and rapid escalation of this dispute by Qantas management. It is extremely disappointing, and highly disruptive to Australians who are travelling, or were planning to travel. I’m sure they’re very disappointed by the decision by management to lock people out and to ground the fleet.

It is even more disappointing given that this was not flagged, prior to Saturday, to the public or to the Government. In fact the parties, including Qantas, indicated they were continuing to negotiate. The Government was notified at 2pm, and the Government has now intervened as a result of the dramatic escalation of this dispute to put an end to this industrial action. And as your news bulletin has said, there are hearings underway and ongoing as we speak.

MORRISON: What we need is not hearings. What we need is a motion under Section 131 of the Fair Work Act, which enables the Government by its own motion to end the bargaining period and get the planes back into the sky.

I mean that’s what can be done under the Prime Minister’s Fair Work Act. She wrote it when she was the Minister responsible, and I think that’s what we’re looking for now, some clear decisions. It was also disappointing today to see, particularly Bill Shorten I think, coming out and using some very strong language against Qantas this morning in relation to some of the things that have happened. But we all sympathise with what’s happening -

WONG: Well you would concede there’s been a rapid escalation.

MORRISON: If I can just finish, Penny if I can just finish the point I was making.

WONG: You would concede that wouldn’t you Scott?

MORRISON: What I think has happened is in the last week we’ve seen further activity and a massive change to the dynamic of this yesterday. But clearly what we can do under the Fair Work Act is we can put in place a clear determination for the Government, by its own motion, to end the bargaining period to get planes back in the air. So putting it off to the Fair Work Agency to make this decision I don’t think is the way forward, and nor do we as a Coalition. But to ensure that the Government uses its own Act to get planes back into the sky. And I think that’s what everyone wants to see. And I don’t think it helps with government ministers, and I’m not referring to you Penny, but other government ministers going out there and picking sides in this debate, which I don’t think is very helpful.

DORAN: Okay we might now -

WONG: We’re not picking sides. You know who we’re representing, the travelling public.

MORRISON: Well that’s not what I heard from Bill Shorten this morning Penny.

WONG: And we are saying -

MORRISON: Bill couldn’t work out whether he was a trade union official or a Minister this morning and I didn’t think that was very helpful at all.

WONG: When you’ve finished shouting –

MORRISON: Well I’m not shouting Penny I’m just making a point.

WONG: When you’ve finished your point what I’d say is this. We’re not picking sides. What I am saying though is there is no doubt though that there has been a rapid escalation in this dispute that was not flagged by management. Even now Qantas has not sought the government’s intervention. The government has chosen to intervene off its own motion.

MORRISON: But you haven’t intervened Penny, because you can intervene using those powers under the Fair Work Act. The Prime Minister has chosen not to do that, and the process you’ve gone down could see this roll on for up to another month. And I don’t think that’s what the travelling public wants.

DORAN: I might intervene now please, if I might intervene on another issue. A key challenge facing Australia today, obviously Australia suffered one of the worst incidents in the war in Afghanistan today – three diggers killed, seven others injured. This brings the total number now to 32 Australian soldiers killed since this war began. How does the government, Senator if I might ask you this question, how does the Government now go about convincing Australians that this is a war worth dying for?

WONG: This is a very, very sad day for Australia. And our sympathy, our thoughts, our prayers are with the families of those who’ve lost a loved one, and those who are praying for the recovery of Australian soldiers who are injured.

War is a very difficult and tragic, tragic thing. But I would say to Australians, this is an important thing we are doing in Afghanistan. And if you speak to the soldiers, if you speak to the Defence Force, they continue to say how important the work we are doing there is.

But I think today rather than thinking about the strategy or the politics really we should simply focus on sending our thoughts and prayers and sympathy to those families.

DORAN: Mr Morrison just quickly –

MORRISON: Well I would agree absolutely with Penny. Whatever disruption we’ve had over the last 48 hours, 24 hours, it really doesn’t compare with that suffered by those families now of those three diggers. And our thoughts and prayers are with them.

DORAN: Penny Wong and Scott Morrison, thanks so much for your time. That is all we have time for tonight.

MORRISON: Thanks a lot.

WONG: Good to be with you.