A joke about a call to renationalize Qantas has left Today show host Karl Stefanovic with stitches.
The beleaguered airline is facing a growing backlash for record cancellations, flight disruptions and lost bags.
Greens transport spokeswoman Elizabeth Watson-Brown will use a statement in the House of Representatives to urge the Prime Minister to return the airline to the public.
But Government Services Minister Bill Shorten quickly dismantled the idea when asked Tuesday morning.
“I don’t know what the Greens have been smoking,” he joked.
“You’re not going to put Humpty back together. This is the crazy economics of the Greens. If I had a billion dollars to buy an airline, I’d rather pay off the government debt.
“Would I like Qantas to treat their workforce better? Yes. Do I want so many flights not to be cancelled? Yes. But I don’t want to buy an airline.
“It’s not on my list of the 10 most important things in government.”
Stefanovic, who had visibly lost his temper, then innocently falsely asked, “Bill, what are you guys smoking?”
“That’s the mystery,” Shorten joked with a knowing smile.
Qantas was privatized in 1992 as part of the then Hawke-Keating government’s move to sell major government assets.
But the Greens MP will say the recent spate of disruptions and delays at the national airline prove privatization has been “very bad” for Australians.
“Cheaper flights for customers, better results for everyone. That was the mantra. And it didn’t make sense,” Ms Watson-Brown will say.
A Qantas spokesman defended the airline, saying the “high standards that people rightly expect from Qantas” were steadily returning.
“We know the tough decisions Qantas had to make during the pandemic and, in response to harsh competitive pressures before then, they were difficult for many,” they said.
“We know that our services during the return to flights have been affected by cancellations, delays and lost luggage. Airlines around the world are having similar experiences, or worse, as they recover from Covid.
“We sincerely apologize to our customers.”
It comes as Australians were stranded in Bali after Jetstar flights were cancelled.
Since the beginning of September, flights between Australia and Bali have been suspended every day due to engineering problems.
Shorten asked if Qantas’s sister airline was suffering from a case of “Bali belly”.
“However, I feel sorry for the families and children. The only job an airline has is to take off and land. These kinds of repeated cancellations are in very bad form,” she said.