Parliament Passes Changes to Qantas Sale Act, Flag Carrier Will Remain Majority Australian Owned

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By Vittorio Hernandez | July 21, 2014 9:42 AM EST

A passenger walks past a Qantas Airways emblem at the Sydney International Airport terminal July 18, 2014. Australia's Qantas Airways said on Friday it had shifted the flight path for its London to Dubai route over Ukraine some 400 nautical miles to the south several months ago. A Malaysian airliner was brought down in eastern Ukraine on Thursday, killing all 298 people on board. REUTERS/David Gray (AUSTRALIA - Tags: TRANSPORT DISASTER BUSINESS LOGO POLITICS)
A passenger walks past a Qantas Airways emblem at the Sydney International Airport terminal July 18, 2014. Australia's Qantas Airways said on Friday it had shifted the flight path for its London to Dubai route over Ukraine some 400 nautical miles to the south several months ago. A Malaysian airliner was brought down in eastern Ukraine on Thursday, killing all 298 people on board. REUTERS/David Gray (AUSTRALIA - Tags: TRANSPORT DISASTER BUSINESS LOGO POLITICS)

The two houses of Australia's Parliament have passed on Friday legislation that would ease foreign ownership restrictions on flag carrier Qantas. However, the airline would still remain 51 per cent or majority owned by Australia.

Under the compromise proposed by Labor on the Qantas Sale Act, no single foreign investor or foreign airline would be able to hold over 49 per cent of Qantas. The change would still allow the financially challenged company to improve Qantas's ability to compete in the global aviation industry, especially against budget carriers and major airlines from the Middle East backed up by petrodollars from their governments.

"Qantas will still operate under restrictions that do not apply to other Australian airline but will have greater capacity to attract new investment," explained Jamie Briggs, junior transport minister.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten said the cooperation between the Coalition and Labor on the Qantas Sale Act is a recognition "that despite our differences, despite the different values we hold, this Parliament does have the capacity to build consensus on the challenges facing our country, our future, our national interest."

The changes also require that the airline's headquarters must be in Australia and 66 per cent of the board must be Australians. Likewise, the big part of facilities and services such as maintenance and storage must be in the country.

Briggs said that while Qantas preferred removing the foreign ownership cap, the air carrier supports the amended bill "as a step in the right direction."

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A passenger walks past a Qantas Airways emblem at the Sydney International Airport terminal July 18, 2014. Australia's Qantas Airways said on Friday it had shifted the flight path for its London to Dubai route over Ukraine some 400 nautical miles to the south several months ago. A Malaysian airliner was brought down in eastern Ukraine on Thursday, killing all 298 people on board. REUTERS/David Gray (AUSTRALIA - Tags: TRANSPORT DISASTER BUSINESS LOGO POLITICS)
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