Qantas CEO Geoff Dixon was born in Wagga Wagga and started his working life as a journalist. After more than 20 years in the airline business, he also knows a lot of about government, lobbying and power.

Therefore, it is not surprising that Dixon has a well-earned reputation for letting fly. Anyone who is mates with John Singleton, James Packer and Alan Jones is hardly going to be backwards in coming forwards.

However, yesterday’s five page press release lashing out at all and sundry was one of Dixon’s finest efforts yet. Only former Commonwealth Bank CEO David Murray comes close to Dixon for sheer verbal aggression.

The fundamental problem that Dixon faces is that Qantas is only worth $20 billion, or $5.60 a share, if it can retain its privileged and protected place in the market

However, why should Dixon be allowed to sell his shares for a $3 million profit to a private equity consortium when much of these gains have come courtesy of the regulator and the long-suffering consumer?

The Dixon spin was quite extraordinary yesterday and this claim was most interesting: “Since 2000, the Qantas Group has increased international seats departing from Brisbane by 73% and from Melbourne by 24%.”

The only way he can possibly come up with that number is by adding domestic services and bringing in Jetstar and Qantas-Link. Taking a domestic flight from Melbourne or Brisbane to Sydney and then heading offshore does not constitute additional international seats out of either city.

However, there are some lovely ironies in the airport bleatings. After so many years of Brisbane trying to shake off the hick-town tag and Melburnians comparing themselves with Sydney, the two cities are now actually begging to be classified as “regional”.

This, of course, is just so they can get around the Qantas-friendly Air Service Agreements that are preventing Emirates and Singapore from gaining access to one of the fastest growing markets in the world.

These regional hicks do have some power over Qantas because the Queensland Investment Corporation and the Victorian Funds Management Corporation both feature in the top 20 shareholders.

Will the Bracks and Beattie governments vote for a takeover that shafts their airports, constrains tourism and threatens maintenance jobs? These are interesting days, especially for VFMC director and union heavy Bill Shorten who is campaigning against the takeover on industrial grounds.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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