Australian lawmakers vote to relax Qantas rules

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 6, 2014 at 10:53 am •  Published: March 6, 2014
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CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — The Australian government took a step toward relaxing foreign ownership restrictions on Qantas Airways on Thursday by passing legislation through parliament's lower house.

But the opposition Labor Party and Greens party plan to use their majority in the Senate to keep the national carrier in Australian ownership.

Cabinet ministers decided Monday to allow more foreign ownership of Australia's largest airline to help it raise capital. Qantas last week posted a first-half loss of 235 million Australian dollars ($211 million) and announced plans to cut 5,000 jobs in a bid to slash AU$2 billion in costs.

The conservative ruling coalition's dominance of the lower chamber of Parliament ensured the legislation that would repeal limits on foreign stakes in Qantas was passed. The bill passed 83 votes to 53.

"The purpose of the bill is to remove the regulatory handcuffs that apply to Qantas but to no other Australian-based airline," Transport Minister Warren Truss said when introducing the legislation.

Foreign airlines are currently barred from holding more than 35 percent of Qantas and any single foreign investor cannot hold a stake bigger than 25 percent stake. The legislation also mandates 51 percent Australian ownership.