Release type: Transcript


Doorstop – Melbourne


The Hon Brendan O'Connor MP
Minister for Skills and Training

ALAN JOYCE, QANTAS CEO: Welcome everybody here to our hangar here in Melbourne. It's great to be here with the Minister Brendan O'Connor. Thank you very much for joining us.
Can I first of all acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, the people of this nation. Can I actually say I'm very excited that on every Qantas flight landing in Australia today, we actually acknowledge country and acknowledge those people. And it's very important in this critical year that we do recognise our First Nations people.
Now, Qantas has gone through a tough period over the last few years, having lost over $7 billion, had our balance sheets smashed by COVID and been in a position where we had to restructure the business. Coming out of COVID we have seen the Qantas Group turnaround quite dramatically. We've seen in the last half our profitability go from a loss of $1.3 billion to a profit of $1.4 billion, and our balance sheet is stronger than it ever has been with the lowest level of debts in decades. Why is that important? Well, because we're now making money and because we have a strong balance sheet, we can invest in our future and invest for growth and invest to renew.
And over the last few weeks, we've made a whole series of announcements on new seats on aircraft, the best we think in the world, new lounges, and we've talked about the new destinations, 14 new routes operating domestically, and six new destinations internationally. We're bigger than we were before COVID. But probably the most important investment we're doing is that we have new aircraft arriving now, one every three weeks and believe it or not that aircraft arrived here last night. That's the aircraft for the next three weeks. And with so many of them that are arriving that we need more people.
And in fact over the next decade, Qantas could take delivery of 299 new narrow body aircraft and 15 wide body aircraft. We have three new 787s arriving in the next few months. Now for that we need people. And we have to grow again. So we think over the next decade we're going to need 8500 technical frontline staff. In fact, in the next 18 months, we're going to need 2300 new staff. in the last 18 months we've hired 5000 new staff and where we think this is needed is across the board.
And the one particular area that I'm pleased to announce is that in the engineering side of the business, we're going to need to be able to set up an Engineering Academy to start training the engineers of the future. We think that that Academy will produce 300 engineers a year of which Qantas is going to need 200. And the extra 100 is for the rest of the industry - defence, general aviation, the mining sector because at the moment, we're all competing for talent.
So we're very excited that we're going to start that process and have this launched by '25. This is in addition to the Pilot Academy that we set up just before covid. That Pilot Academy is producing 200 pilots a year, it's in Toowoomba. If it wasn't for COVID, we would have done the engineering center before now. We're also announcing an expansion of our flight training facilities. And I'm proud we're growing our simulators with an extra simulator there.
We've already expanded our simulator centers for pilots here in Melbourne. We have a brand new flight training center, simulator center for pilots in Brisbane but we opened up during COVID. And in '24 we open up a state of the art new simulator center in Sydney, which will be our biggest center for training of pilots.
So it's great we're back in profit. It's great that we have a strong balance sheet because that means we can invest. We can invest in aircraft, we can invest in people, we can invest in training, and that's why it's good to be where we are today compared to where we were in the last three years. And I don't think anybody ever thought that this turnaround would be this fast. So I'm very pleased that the future of Qantas is looking sounder that it's ever done. With this investment in people and in training and in high quality Australian jobs, we're committed to growing our base as the national carrier in this country.
I'll hand over to the Minister for a few comments.
BRENDAN O'CONNOR, MINISTER FOR SKILLS AND TRAINING: Thanks very much Alan. Can I also acknowledge the traditional owners of the land upon which we meet and pay our respects to elder's past and present. And yes, I'd also like to applaud Qantas for recognising the traditional owners on each and every flight, which I notice every time I'm on a Qantas flight. I think that's corporate leadership at its very best and I appreciate that.
Can I acknowledge the Qantas staff, the union delegates that are here, Glenn Thompson, the union officials, the apprentices, everyone that's here for what is a very important announcement.
This country has been, of course, adversely affected by a global pandemic. Across the economy, there were adverse impacts on businesses and workers and of course, the aviation sector was hit as hard as any sector of the economy. And that's why it's really important there's a plan to recover out of the depths of that pandemic. And therefore we welcome the decision by Qantas to invest in training, and announcing the Engineering Academy that will be established.
It really is important, if the pandemic has taught us anything, that we plan for the future, that we build resilience in the economy. And that is done by government and the corporate sector, working with unions and others, working with higher education, working with the VET sector. So that's really important if we're going to have the supply of skills to the aviation sector. And beyond that we have an education and training system that works and supplies the skills that are in demand today, but also anticipates the changing nature of the labour market and therefore invests in areas of emerging demand.
So Qantas's decision today means it is looking to the future of the aviation sector and I think it will have regard to what has happened. As I said to Alan earlier, who could have considered or imagined that something as significant as covid, a global pandemic, could have impacted on the aviation sector globally, but yet it did. So we have to learn from that as a country. And I understand that this sector must learn from that as well and build resilience and have planning so that future shocks to the economy or labour market can be mitigated wherever necessary.
Today's an important day because it is outlining a plan for investment in the workforce of the aviation sector. And we believe we've got a very important role. We've announced 180,000 Fee-Free TAFE places this year, and we've increased places in universities and higher education. We're restoring skilled migration pathways, which are critical. The combination of investing in local workers and skilled migration pathways are required for the demands on the labour market. But what we'd also like to see is leadership by industry, industry taking it upon themselves to make decisions to invest. And today is one of those moments where industry is taking a decision to ensure that there are future supply of skills in this critical sector. The aviation sector is absolutely critical to the entire economy of this country.
So if this aviation sector is working well, then our economy is better off across the across the board. So, as I say, the Albanese Government welcomes the decision today by Qantas. Happy to take any questions.
JOURNALIST: Is there any Government funding for this Engineering Academy?
O'CONNOR: No, this is a decision that has been made by Qantas. We were asked to come today to acknowledge that decision. But I'll just say this, whether it's the aviation sector or any other sector of the economy, we expect them to access the investment that is in the VET sector and Higher Education. Of course we expect companies and industry to work with universities and work with TAFE and other VET providers so that they access the funding that exists now, so that their workforce can acquire the skills that are in demand. So in other words there are opportunities for existing workers in the aviation sector to access existing courses and we encourage that.
As I said, for this year we introduced 180,000 Fee-Free TAFE places for people to acquire skills that are in demand. And we'll be doing more. We're working with States and Territories to establish a five year National Skills Agreement starting January 1, 2024. Jason Clare the Minister for Education is working on ensuring that there are university degrees in areas that are in demand today and will be tomorrow. So we are working very closely.
The Jobs and Skills Summit convened by the Prime Minister was a very important recognition of the real challenge we face as a country in dealing with some really extraordinary obstacles in terms of supplying skills, and we had a great conversation with businesses and unions and others about what needs to be done. We want to work with industry and ensure that we plan for the future. Today's decision is about planning for the future. And we applaud that decision.
: Minister, we were just talking about this before, here it says that there will be a particular focus on encouraging more women to consider a career in aviation engineering. How do you go about that? How do you go about encouraging more women to be engaged?
I think that those companies with foresight are looking to increase the participation of women in what have been traditionally male dominated occupations. The government supports and will work with industry to encourage and welcome women to work in those trades.
What sort of business model would hive off half the population if it's looking to supply the skills that are in demand? And also, a workforce that is representative of Australia is a healthier workforce. A more diverse workforce, not just on gender by the way, but a more diverse workforce is a healthier workforce. And I believe that therefore it's important that whether it's in engineering or the traditional trades, we need to encourage more women to participate.
I believe Qantas would have the same view and we will work with companies like Qantas to encourage that important change. In 2023 there is no excuse for us not to be encouraging women into male dominated occupations.