Aussie PM slams Qantas over grounding

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has criticised Qantas for taking "an extreme approach" by grounding its fleet at the weekend.

There were other options open to the airline in its industrial dispute with pilots and other workers, she said.

All industrial action between Qantas and unions was terminated by Fair Work Australia in a marathon hearing that ended early this morning.

"I believe that Qantas took an extreme approach on Saturday," Ms Gillard told the Seven Network following the decision.

"It did that in circumstances where there were other options open to it."

The airline could have taken "exactly the same" application the government took to Fair Work Australia to terminate industrial action.

Ms Gillard defended the government's response to the dispute, especially its decision not to intervene sooner.

Some of the circumstances of the dispute had not been clearly understood, she said.

The government could have used a section of the Fair Work Act to terminate industrial action on its own, but that would have created a legal precedent, Ms Gillard said.

"That section has never been used in Australia's history.

"If we had tried to use it, we would have ended up in a world of legal uncertainty with the prospect of court action."

That would have meant more uncertainty for Qantas passengers.

Ms Gillard described the Fair Work Australia decision as "a win for the travelling public".

She denied suggestions the Qantas action had set a precedent for other big companies to use against trade unions.

Ms Gillard denied reports she had refused to speak to Qantas CEO Alan Joyce on Saturday, before the grounding was announced.

Qantas had told her office this morning that the reports were misleading and the company would make a clarifying statement later in the day, she said.

Mr Joyce also dismissed the reports, saying they contained "misinformation".

"I had no expectation of talking to the prime minister," he told ABC Radio today, adding he had discussions with three senior ministers.

Ms Gillard also defended her decision not to contact Mr Joyce personally after the Qantas boss informed Transport Minister Anthony Albanese of the planned grounding on Saturday.

Mr Joyce had told the minister the decision was "not up for discussion", she said.

"What I did was immediately act to take the application to Fair Work Australia ... that was the best thing I could do."

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