Alan Joyce’s logic is the elegant reasoning of a terrorist.

If the result of his massive disruption of the Australian transport system is the further shredding of the Qantas brand, which began under Geoff Dixon and which has accelerated rapidly under his Irish successor, and leads to further service cuts as Australians turns their back on the airline, that’s fine.

It will merely expedite his plans to offshore-by-stealth Qantas, wrecking the Australian-based operation while he sets about establishing lower-cost, more competitive foreign-based services.

To this end, a furious reaction against the airline for its act of malice toward Australian travellers is a price well worth paying; indeed, it may be part of the longer-term plan.

And even if the plan fails, if Joyce’s new services are yet another unsuccessful entry into the international aviation market, it’s of no moment to the Irishman anyway. He’ll move on to the next highly-remunerated gig. The business world will always find a home for executives who wear job cuts and attacks on unions as badges of pride.

For the ordinary Australian, there are no easy choices. Boycott Qantas, and you punish its employees and further Joyce’s plan. Reward it with your patronage, and you’ll be helping Joyce get another double-digit pay rise.

Joyce, after all, holds hostage not just Qantas’s 30,000 employees, but the key transport systems of a continent-sized nation with only 22 million inhabitants.

There are no easy choices for the government, either, but Joyce’s act of industrial terrorism is a superb opportunity for a government under siege.

The government’s first priority will be getting travellers back in the air and its second resolving the ongoing dispute. But there are politics at work here as well, of two different kinds.

Australian business this year has been increasingly aggressive in its attacks on the Fair Work Australia IR framework, and there are constant calls for another round of IR deregulation. The goal of corporate reform spruikers isn’t to improve Australia’s productivity but to enable business to cut costs, further reducing the wage share of national income below its current, historically low level.

Now the Fair Work system faces its firs major test. And Julia Gillard owns it, lock, stock and barrel. She was the Minister who designed it and shepherded it through Parliament.

It’s also a major opportunity for Gillard. If she’s able to authoritatively resolve this dispute, it could be the beginning of a highly-improbable turnaround. This is a crisis big enough to potentially start the restoration of her leadership stocks, or what’s left of them.

If she can’t, it’s the end of her, and probably sooner than most of us have been thinking.

Then again, the Prime Minister is already in deep, deep political water. In a sense, she has nothing to lose from this, given the terrible polling she faces. Anything that alters the political landscape and disrupts the politics-as-usual pattern of an incompetent Labor unable to lay a glove on a deft, profoundly cynical Tony Abbott is good for Gillard.

What should strengthen the government’s hand is the widespread perception that Qantas management is more to blame than the unions it is trying to crush, a sentiment unlikely to have been anything other than deepened by Joyce’s actions.  Essential found last week that 36-13% of voters blamed management over unions for the dispute, with 37% saying both equally were to blame. 73% also thought Joyce was overpaid. Essential also found 43-34% support for the government buying back Qantas.

Voters, it seems, just want their old Qantas back. In the view of Joyce and the Qantas board, they can’t get it back in the airline’s current form, not given continuing strong competition from government-subsidised foreign airlines and the high dollar. The only way to get the old Qantas back may indeed be to nationalise it and subsidise it, or to return to the days when competition from foreign airlines was even more tightly restricted than it is now.

And no one in federal politics is pushing those options. Well, not yet.