8 Dec 2013

Qantas too important to fail, says Labor Party

7:37 pm on 8 December 2013

The Australian Labor Party says it would support the federal government intervening to assist Qantas, but the coalition has responded cooly to the proposition.

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Photo: AFP

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 AAP reports that the government remains unenthusiastic about stepping in, stressing that Qantas is a commercial operation that needs to get its finances in order.

On Friday, ratings agency Standard and Poor's downgraded the airline's credit rating to junk status, increasing the cost of financing and restricting access to investors that do not invest in lower-rated companies.

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.

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.