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Senators fail to land a blow on Qantas chairman Goyder

September 27, 2023 — 6.36pm

The group of senators who lined the ring for a bout with Qantas’ new chief executive, its chairman and its legal counsel must have walked away from the gladiatorial encounter feeling immensely frustrated.

The lesson learned was that it is hard to engage in a contest when the other side won’t play.

Team Qantas stuck to the script at the Senate hearing.

Team Qantas stuck to the script at the Senate hearing.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

Various senators had armed themselves and were happy to hurl incendiary one-liners – particularly at chairman Richard Goyder. He didn’t take the bait and none really landed a serious punch.

Team Qantas had their well-prepared defences – and they stuck to the script.

Goyder was, as unusual, unflappable and the new chief executive was spared some of the dirtier punches. As a newbie, Hudson’s message was all about the new enlightened Qantas – the one that emerged a few weeks ago and the one that says it now cares about its staff and its customers.

Needless to say, it was hard to keep count of the number of sorries that were on offer. It was a very handy defensive move. The Senate inquisitors would love to have claimed a scalp. And Goyder was who they were gunning for.

But Goyder is refusing to be pushed out of a job in response to the public relations and brand nightmare Qantas is living through. He won’t take the fall for former chief Alan Joyce, even though he has long been his most ardent fan.

A veteran of public company boardrooms, Goyder understands that he is responsible to only one group of masters – those large shareholders that have the ability to vote him out of office.

While one senator suggested that Goyder used the board as a human shield, the reality is that this job has been left to major shareholders.


No amount of lobbying from Qantas pilots or engineers will sway Goyder from doing what he says is his duty to shareholders, which is to oversee continuity of governance.

The problem for the group of senators led by Bridget McKenzie is that the primary culprit who is responsible for illegally sacking the 1700 ground handlers, who oversaw the alleged sale of tens of thousands of tickets on already cancelled flights, and who had a particularly cosy relationship with many in Canberra, wasn’t at the hearing.

This hearing needed Joyce to appear to ensure ratings success. Sadly, he was enjoying himself in Europe.

It is hard to imagine the inquisitors of the legions watching the webcast were ever going to get the answer to the big question that sits behind this inquiry – why Qatar’s application to bring in additional flight to Australia was knocked back.

But it shone a spotlight on one intriguing question: what was in Qantas’ submission to the government on Qatar Airways’ application?

Former Qantas boss Alan Joyce will not front the Senate select committee due to “personal commitments”.

Former Qantas boss Alan Joyce will not front the Senate select committee due to “personal commitments”.Credit: Eamon Gallagher

This is the document that Qantas guards so closely that it was reluctant to give the inquiry even on a confidential basis, and even after it had been redacted.

The mind boggles at what must be in this submission that is so damaging that Qantas is clearly terrified about being aired publicly.

Having now heard from Qantas, Qatar Airways and Virgin about who knew what and when around the government’s decision, there are numerous smoking guns but too many to pinpoint exactly who made the decision or why.


All those who appeared before the inquiry – other than Qantas – believe the decision to block Qatar wasn’t in the public interest.

And we have heard plenty since the inquiry began about the outsized level of influence that Qantas has in Canberra.

Was helping Qantas a quid pro quo for the airline’s support on its Yes campaign as was suggested?

Was it Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s gratitude for his son’s admission to the Qantas Chairman’s Lounge. Neither assertion seemed anything like a slam dunk.

So, the big unanswered question is still lingering.

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