Jamie Chinery

Qantas passes Hockey test for support from government

QANTAS meets Treasurer Joe Hockey's four-pronged test for potential changes to restrictions that prevent it from being majority-owned by overseas companies.

Chief executive of the Australian airline Alan Joyce has called for changes to government policy to guarantee the airline's future.

Speakin Canberra last night, Mr Joyce said Qantas had succeeded without government support and he hoped it would continue to do so.

"But to do so, we have to change, and so does government policy," he said.

While Qantas has been seeking a government debt guarantee to support its future operations, Mr Hockey today  signalled potential changes to the laws governing the airline.

The airline operates under the Qantas Sale Act, which mandates the company must remain at least 51% Australian-owned - a point which Mr Hockey restricted its ability to respond to economic circumstance.

However, Mr Hockey said it met a four-pronged test, for changes or other government support - including that it provides an essential service and that it is doing what it can to help itself.

He said the test also included whether a company's competitors were supported by foreign governments and whether government policies restrict its operations - which Qantas met.

While Mr Hockey said the airline met the test, and he was "actively considering" its future, it was not a "critical priority" for the government at the moment.