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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 5 Hansard (8 May) . . Page.. 1347 ..

MS MacDONALD (continuing):

Stan Howard was not a part owner of Ansett. We may have seen some action from the Prime Minister if he had been.

I would suggest that there had been no scrutiny when Air New Zealand purchased the remaining 50 per cent of Ansett from News Ltd. This was in spite of a viable bid from Singapore Airlines. News Ltd and the Australian government were not interested in looking at whether or not Air New Zealand could keep Ansett running as a viable asset, providing jobs, providing competition for other airlines in this country and making sure that the people of this country had access to reasonably priced air fares.

When they refused to take action, they effectively turned their backs on thousands of Australians who must now be wondering where their next pay packet is coming from. For those who have had to endure the emotional torment of the uncertainty of unemployment, it has been a gut-wrenching feeling. I am fortunate to have worked with Canberra's Ansett employees for five years. I am now being approached on the street by friends in despair about their situation.

Ansett employed well over 200 Canberrans. That is 200 Canberra families who relied on the pay packet to buy groceries and put kids through school. It is 200 Canberra families who were planning retirement with their superannuation. John Howard, John Anderson and the Humphries government sat back and watched while those 200 Canberra families had all that ripped away from them.

The Ansett call centre at Tuggeranong employed 150 people. Those employees were from all over the ACT but many were from the Tuggeranong Valley. The call centre at Tuggeranong was an important employer in a part of Canberra with a longstanding need for a progressive and service-based employer. Another 45 people were employed at the Canberra airport, and retail outlets and the AIS office employed another 15 to 20 people.

Former Ansett employees feel totally abandoned and have been made scapegoats for the mismanagement of Air New Zealand and, before that, News Ltd. But more importantly, they wanted and expected the Howard and Humphries governments to do something when the airline first collapsed, but they saw nothing.

The Ansett call centre in Tuggeranong was a growth business in the heart of the Tuggeranong Valley. Instead of protecting local Canberra jobs, Mr Smyth and his local and federal Liberal colleagues chose to justify their inactivity. This is one the most disgraceful examples of abandonment of Australian workers and families in recent times.

The federal government has abandoned thousands of employees and their families, and the ACT Liberals have abandoned ACT Ansett workers. The former minister, Brendan Smyth, loves to talk about his influence in federal circles but has been shown up for the ineffectual member he is. As transport minister last year, Mr Smyth sat on his hands and did little. There was never a better time for Mr Smyth to flex his supposed political muscle. But instead of a strong man act, we witnessed a political wimp.

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