If you thought Sir Rod Eddington retired as chief executive of British Airways last year for a quieter life back in Australia, think again.

Not content with being a non-executive director of Rio Tinto and News Corporation, Sir Rod took on the chairmanship of JP Morgan in Australia and also replaced Steve Vizard as chairman of the Bracks Government’s Victorian Major Events Company.

However, that was just the beginning. In May this year the Bracks Government announced that Sir Rod would chair a major review of Melbourne’s transport requirements, although then Transport Minister Peter Batchelor warned of delays due to Sir Rod’s busy schedule:

The study will commence in the second half of this year, once Sir Rod has completed his current transport study for the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, and will be completed in 2007.

Unfortunately, Sir Rod’s UK transport report was only published on December 1 and the British press are still digesting it.

And Sir Rod is hardly likely to have made much progress over the past two weeks given it has been revealed that he is now up to his eye-balls in the imminent private equity takeover of Qantas.

The AFR reports today that Sir Rod is playing a “key role” through his board seat at Allco Finance, one of David Coe’s structured finance group of companies that own 22 aircraft leased to the carrier and are intending to take 35% of the equity in a privatised Qantas.

So, just when Sir Rod is meant to be cranking up his review of Melbourne’s transport requirements and securing major events for Victoria, he’ll instead be out selling a debt-laden privatisation of Qantas that will probably see lots of Victorian maintenance jobs disappear offshore.

Such a role will presumably put him in conflict given his directorship of Cathay Pacific controlling shareholder, John Swire & Sons. It also flies in the face of his 2005 declaration that “my days as an airline man are finished”.

Given all this, Sir Rod is probably struggling to keep across the detail of Rupert Murdoch’s imminent peace deal with John Malone and will not be indulging arguably his greatest passion — watching test cricket.

It really is all too much for one man – no matter how charming, connected and talented he may be.

Peter Fray

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