There is something rather obscene about a board and management splashing around $91 million in undeserved largesse to select executives whose main claim to fame is screwing a few more cents from the other ranks’ wages bill – but that’s just what Qantas is doing.

It is money for absolutely nothing – just for being there when ownership changes. There are no performance hurdles to be met. To the contrary, the dosh is showered despite performance hurdles not being met. And they keep their jobs under the new regime with pay rises and increased incentives.

The only hurdle is that the Qantas takeover by Airline Partners Australia must proceed. No wonder the boys at the top are pushing hard for it. Geoff Dixon alone stands to trouser a lazy $8 million. As the Smage reports:

The payouts are on top of lucrative cash and share incentives they will get from the would-be owners of the “new” Qantas, including bonuses of up to 200 per cent of their cash salaries, a stake in the new company of up to 4.5%, and a performance fee for Mr Dixon as high as $60 million.

It should be noted Dixon has admirably pledged to donate the equity part of his “new” Qantas bonus to good causes, but that doesn’t much reduce the overall image of executive pigs wallowing in an undeserved trough.

As an example of ugly capitalism, it’s a good deal worse than the million dollar cheque Meredith Hellicar is picking up as she waves farewell to James Hardie. Hellicar’s payout is effectively part of her salary as a director – she has earned it, in a manner of speaking. Such retirement bonuses are out of fashion now from a governance point of view, but as they’re still being paid as the old hands finish up.

Nonetheless, combined with the lark-tongue tarts served on the Qantas bonus club’s diamond-encrusted solid gold plates, Hardie’s generosity with spectacularly failed executives and directors is not a good look for free enterprise as the disparity grows between the rest of society and the 1% at the top with control of the loot.

Peter Fray

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