TELEVISION INTERVIEW CAPITAL HILL
MONDAY, 3 AUGUST 2021
SUBJECTS: Qantas workers stood down; Vaccine and quarantine.
MATTHEW DORAN, HOST: Catherine King, good afternoon to you. I want to get to that Qantas announcement shortly, but let’s start with this extra support for the aviation sector. Do you think it goes far enough?
CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT: Well, look, obviously I don’t think it goes far enough because what it’s done is leave half the workforce out completely in the cold. It’s up for the government to explain why it thinks half of the aviation workforce should have a form of JobKeeper and why they should keep that connection with their with their employer and the other half doesn’t. This is a sector that has been absolutely bought to its knees, and it’s been brought to its knees because we’ve had to have continued lockdowns because we’re having outbreaks because the government has failed vaccination and quarantine. The government has had 18 months to get a proper plan in place to try and save the aviation sector and to help it recover and we keep seeing these piecemeal approaches. Frankly, the approach we saw yesterday was welcome for those aviation workers who will receive the payment and there’s some clarity that needs to be made around that, but for those who don’t receive the payment, it’s up to the government to explain as to why they are different.
DORAN:There has been some calls out there from the union movement in particular, saying that it should be opened up to a broader cross section of the aviation workforce. The government is saying that crew, other than pilots and cabin crew, are eligible if they’re on the books, not contractors. Is there a risk that opening payments like this up to all contractors as well would leave the government on the hook for a pretty significant sum when the decision to outsource some of those operations is really one for a business to be making?
KING: Again, this is the distinction that government seems to be making. If you’re a pilot or you’re cabin crew, then you’re eligible for a JobKeeper payment, but if you’re the person who’s cleaning the plane, who’s providing catering services, providing baggage control, remembering that Qantas recently outsourced all of those jobs from its paid workforce, that you’re not eligible for this, which is a form of JobKeeper payment. I think it’s up to the government to explain why it thinks some parts of the workforce, pilots and cabin crew, are eligible for a JobKeeper payment while others are not. This is a sector that’s been brought to its knees and the government’s piecemeal approach isn’t helping.
DORAN: On the Qantas announcement, Alan Joyce, the chief executive of the airline, says that the two months stand down is based on how long the company believes the Sydney lockdown will last. Do you think that that’s likely and the staff wouldn’t be brought back online as quick as that?
KING: Well, it’s hard for me to comment on that. I think it’s clear that because of our vaccine failure and because of the failures of quarantine, we are now seeing the lockdowns in Queensland and the long lockdown that is in New South Wales. The airline industry knew, we knew, well over 12 months ago that if we didn’t get vaccination on track in this country, this is what would happen, we’d continue to see lockdowns. we’d continue to see border closures, and then absolutely no chance that the country would open up to international aviation. This is a failure of government policy we are now seeing writ large. 2,500 workers are devastated by the news that they’ve been stood down for at least two months, and we’ve also lost over 10,000 jobs permanently from the aviation sector overall. This is a government that is frankly making it up as it goes along when it comes to the aviation sector and this news today is devastating for Qantas workers and I suspect there’ll be more to come.
DORAN: Catherine King, we’re slightly crunched for time given the Prime Minister’s press conference but thank you for joining us on Capitol Hill.
KING: Good to be with you Matt.
CATHERINE KING – TRANSCRIPT – TELEVISION INTERVIEW – CAPITAL HILL – MONDAY, 3 AUGUST 2021