Australian Federal Transport Minister, Anthony Albanese, has stated it may be timely to consider whether the additional ownership restrictions currently imposed on Qantas remain appropriate.
Releasing the government's draft National Aviation Policy Statement (Green Paper), Mr Albanese stated the Government will maintain the legal requirement for majority Australian ownership of Australia's international airlines, including Qantas, to ensure a strong, Australian-based aviation industry continues into the future.
But he stated the government will consider removing the intermediate caps under the Qantas Sale Act of 25 per cent on individual foreign airlines and 35 per cent on aggregate foreign airline interests. "That may open additional options for structuring investment, while ensuring the airline remains Australian-run and Australian-based".
Mr Albanese added, "at the same time, the government acknowledges the international trend away from a regulatory environment based on substantial ownership and control, to one based on 'principal place of business'. The Government proposes to continue seeking incorporation of principal place of business criteria in bilateral agreements. In considering whether to ensure Australia's airlines are reasonably able to take advantage of moves towards airline consolidation in the global aviation industry, the Government will continue to apply the test of overall national interest".
Qantas welcomed the release of the Federal Government's Green Paper. CEO, Alan Joyce, said the proposed initiatives were "broad ranging and forward looking and would play an important role in providing a coordinated framework for the Australian aviation industry over the long term".
Mr Joyce said that while it appeared the 49 percent limit on foreign investment in Australian international airlines would not change, Qantas welcomed the Government's preparedness to look at other restrictions that applied to ownership in Qantas. He said, this is a step in the right direction which will set us on an equal footing with other Australian international carriers".
He added, "the Government has rightly made aviation safety its top priority and we are in complete agreement on this - safety always has been and always will be the number one priority across the Qantas
Group. The proposal to pursue greater international market access to improve commercial opportunities for Australia's airlines will also be critical in supporting the future growth and competitiveness of Qantas,
Jetstar and our freight business. Importantly, the proposed policy settings also recognise the structural advantages enjoyed by many of our major competitors and the need to take these into account when determining a balanced approach to market liberalisation."
The Aviation Green Paper is the second of three steps in the development of Australia's first ever comprehensive national aviation policy. The process began with the release of an Issues Paper in April 2008 and will be completed with the release of a White Paper in the latter half of 2009, bringing all aspects of aviation policy into a single forward-looking statement.