Labor says it would support the federal government intervening to assist Qantas, but the coalition has responded cooly to the proposition.
Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen says Qantas is “effectively” too important to fail, and Labor would be open to the idea of the federal government intervening to help the national carrier.
But the government remains unenthusiastic about stepping in, stressing that Qantas is a commercial operation that needs to get its finances in order.
Qantas will shed 1000 jobs over the next 12 months, impose pay freezes and make cuts across the board as it stares down the barrel of massive losses.
It’s blamed the strong Australian dollar, high fuel costs and Virgin Australia “distorting” the market, and says “government action” will be key in enabling it to keep competing on a level playing field.
Mr Bowen says Qantas has an issue accessing capital and the government could play a role “assisting” with that.
“Of course we would want to see that minimised,” he told Sky News on Sunday.
“But if there’s a role for government to constructively play, we would lend our support to the government of the day to do so.”
Labor did not agree that relaxing foreign investment restrictions on the airline was the answer to fixing its woes, he added.
Asked if Qantas was too important to the Australian economy to collapse, Mr Bowen replied: “Effectively, yes”.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister Josh Frydenberg echoed these sentiments, but disagreed about the need for government intervention.
“We do not want it to fail, but it’s a commercial company and it needs to get its house in order and make the adjustments necessary so it can return to a profit,” he told Sky News.
He noted Qantas was competing on an uneven playing field against Virgin, but added that the national carrier could be assisted to the tune of $100 million if the carbon tax was abolished.
Mr Frydenberg disagreed with Labor’s “default position” that government should provide a bailout when companies ran into trouble.
“Our default position is to say leave it to business, leave it to the individual, leave it to free enterprise, and try to keep government’s role to a minimum,” he said.