As Qantas prepares to reveal a loss and job cuts, the federal government has received some backing to allow majority foreign ownership.
The federal government has found support for allowing Qantas to be majority foreign-owned the day before the airline reveals a loss and job cuts.
However, Prime Minister Tony Abbott says he won’t be asking the airline to guarantee Australian jobs as the government drafts laws to lift regulatory restrictions.
The Qantas Sale Act, which came in as the airline was privatised in 1992, limits foreign ownership of the airline to 49 per cent, foreign airlines from holding more than a 35 per cent stake, and any single foreign shareholder to 25 per cent.
The national carrier is expected to announce a net loss of more than $400 million on Thursday and reveal plans to cut $2 billion in costs, including shedding as many as 5000 jobs.
The federal government is considering a short-term debt guarantee, as well as repealing the foreign ownership limits, to ease pressure on the iconic airline.
But it would need six crossbench votes in the new Senate, which will sit for the first time on July 7, to get its bill passed.
Two new senators, David Leyonhjelm from the Liberal Democrats and Bob Day from Family First, told AAP on Wednesday they would support the repeal.
“Qantas is shackled and hamstrung by all manner of regulation in one of the most competitive industries in the world,” Mr Day said.
Mr Leyonhjelm said there was no need for the ownership restrictions.
A spokesman for the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party, whose senator Ricky Muir will take his seat in July, said the bill would be examined on its merits.
Independent Nick Xenophon has argued for Qantas’ management to be sacked before he would consider the legislation and the Democratic Labor Party’s John Madigan is yet to take a position.
The Palmer United Party, the Greens and Labor oppose any change.
Mr Abbott told reporters the government would not be issuing any edicts to Qantas.
“What Qantas does is a matter for Qantas management,” he said.
While there may be some sentimental attachment to iconic businesses such as Qantas, three-quarters of Australians travelling overseas flew with other airlines, he said.
Labor transport spokesman Anthony Albanese said the opposition wanted Qantas to remain majority Australian-owned and Australian-based.
He said repealing the laws would lead to the airline splitting its international and domestic businesses to comply with international aviation regulations and agreements.
It would also lead to many of the 33,000 jobs going overseas.
The laws as they currently stand require the airline to keep the bulk of its maintenance, catering, flight operations and training facilities for international services in Australia.
The Transport Workers Union estimated between 10,000 and 14,000 white-collar and catering jobs would be sent offshore.