Potential deals to secure the future of Ansett were being stymied by the Howard Government’s refusal to confirm that its air ticket tax will pay for $195 million in redundant employees’ entitlements, ACTU President Sharan Burrow said today.

“Mr Howard is forcing Ansett closer to liquidation by double dipping into the airline’s assets and depriving the administrators or potential buyers of essential funds to keep the airline flying,” Ms Burrow said.

Ms Burrow was speaking before meeting a busload of grounded Ansett workers on a protest tour of the marginal Liberal electorates of Deakin and Latrobe on the outskirts of Melbourne this morning.

“John Howard is jeopardising the future of 17,000 Ansett employees by refusing to say how he will spend the millions of dollars of air travellers money he has collected in the air passenger ticket levy,” Ms Burrow said.

“We’ve sought clarification from the Howard Government of comments by its lawyer in the Federal Court last Friday that none of the ticket tax money may be used to fund Ansett employee entitlements. But Mr Howard has refused to say how the ticket tax money will be spent, leaving Ansett staff, the administrators and potential buyers in the dark about the airline’s future.”

Commonwealth Government lawyer, Robin Brett, QC, on Friday told the Federal Court that it was wrong to assume that funds collected from the ticket tax would be passed on to Ansett employees entitlements.

Ms Burrow called on Mr Howard to come clean on what he would do with the millions of dollars collected from the travelling public since the ticket tax was imposed on all air travellers on October 1.