PM’s plan for Qantas might be grounded

SUNSHINE Coast MP Clive Palmer has reportedly dealt a crushing blow to Prime Minister Tony Abbott's hopes of ending Qantas's foreign ownership restrictions.

The leader of the Palmer United Party - which could hold the balance of power in the next Senate - said the national carrier should never be sold to foreign investors.

"Qantas is a part of Australia's heritage as a vital service to rural Queensland and the Northern Territory," Mr Palmer told Fairfax media yesterday.

"Sales like these are nothing but quick fixes and are simply the palming away of responsibility."

Mr Abbott said on Friday that he wished to unshackle Qantas from foreign ownership rules, which were introduced when Labor sold the airline in the 1990s and capped foreign ownership of the company at 49%, thereby limiting its access to capital.

"Let's not have Qantas competing with Virgin and others with one hand tied behind its back," Mr Abbott said.