Qantas has pulled a series of inflight advertisements made by a mining union and promoting Australian jobs in the mining sector, explaining it doesn't run "political" ads.
The Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union ads argue that the benefits of the mining boom are unevenly spread, and that many Australians have tried and failed to get work in the mines – despite repeated complaints by mining companies of a skills shortage.
The ads, which were screened regularly on Sky News, were scheduled to be shown on Qantas flights this week, for seven days.
But Qantas spokesman Luke Enright said the ads, which had run for a day on domestic flights across Australia, had been taken off-the-air.
"It ran for a day and then we had it pulled off the next day," he said. "It wasn't censoring a union ad – we don't allow any political ads."
The union's national secretary, Michael O'Connor, condemned Qantas's decision, and said shutting down legitimate public debate was undemocratic, and an abuse of power. "There is nothing remotely controversial about these commercials," he said.
One of the stars of the real-life commercials, Hunter Valley man Tim Mitchell, says he has tried repeatedly to find work in the mining sector but has not yet been successful.
He said he was surprised Qantas had chosen to pull the ads.
"I didn't see anything political there at all," he said. "I didn't have a problem with them running on Qantas flights. This is an ongoing problem, [Australian] people not being able to find work in [mines]."
The ads promote the union's "Let's Spread It Around" campaign, which highlights skilled Australians seeking work in the mining sector and missing out because of cheaper overseas workers – something the mining industry disputes.
Mr O'Connor said the ads simply made clear that there are two sides to the resources boom, and that the overwhelming majority of Australians would agree with them.
"Given the way Qantas management treat their own staff, perhaps this decision is not so surprising."
Mr O'Connor said Qantas locked out its 30,000-strong workforce last year over a union campaign to stop offshoring and outsourcing.
But a statement from Qantas said that the airline's in-flight advertising guidelines prevented advertising of a political nature. "The advertisement was screened in error. When the error was identified, the advertisement was removed," he said.
The ad shows Australian workers saying they have relevant skills but cannot get jobs in the mining sector.