Dec 6, 2013

A test of government will as Qantas and Holden come begging

The government began climbing out of the hole it had dug for itself on Gonski -- but its handling of Qantas and Holden meant more headaches. Will the Coalition succumb to populism and bail them out?

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

Alan Joyce

What should have been a successful week of recovery and repair for the government has instead been overwhelmed by two iconic names in the Australian economy: Qantas and Holden.

Both correctly claim they’re competing with government-subsidised competitors. Both say they need government help if they’re going to continue. Neither deserves a cent by any rational assessment of Australia’s economic priorities (the Productivity Commission is undertaking one such assessment right now). But both present a political pickle for the no-longer-so-new government, given voters’ irrational attachment to automotive manufacturing and their desire to see Qantas not merely survive but even return to government ownership — or at any rate not run by the clowns who have turned it into a multi-hundred-million-dollar loss-maker while trashing what was perhaps once Australia’s most potent corporate brand.

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13 thoughts on “A test of government will as Qantas and Holden come begging

  1. Steven Grant Haby

    Sadly but brutally both companies should be allowed to flounder and die. The Liberals have always been against nationalisation and subsidisation of industry and services and pro-privatisation so let the market decide.

    However it is not as simple as this as BK states SA and Victoria are heading to the polls next year and much is at stake. Victoria under the Lib/Nat coalition are likely heading for defeat whereas SA it is very close and too close to call.

    Both states have suffered and will continue to suffer from the ineptitude of Qantas and Holden mismanagement.

    So what is the solution? Perhaps the following.

    1. Government buyout of Holden and turned over to the university/innovative sector (CSIRO, etc) to develop and product electric/hybrid cars for the global market including not only cars but trucks, buses, etc. All Government vehicle purchases through this company.

    2. Nationalise Qantas. Sell Jetstar. Retain and build international market and get rid of everything else. Close QantasLink or sell to REX or another company. Sack the entire board and CEO.

    3. Create a new ‘slow travel’ market between the eastern and south eastern seaboard (Adelaide – Melbourne – Canberra – Sydney – Brisbane) by (re)nationalising Great Southern Railway and collaboration with V/Line, CountryLink and QR Traveltrain by offering comfortable, reliable, frequent train services with full service facilities.

    4. Upgrade the MEL – CAN – SYD – BNE rail corridor to accommodate high speed trains at 300 km/h which would compete with low cost and low service airline/bus alternative. Electrification would also be undertaken.

    Tough decisions but can be done.

  2. dazza

    ” Having started the week in a mess of its own making, the government did well to recover and move on, a key skill in office, and one the Howard government had in spades ..”

    I have no idea what you’re talking about, but perhaps someone here could enlightened me. Are you suggesting all those ’emergencies’ and border protection issues are over and done with by the skillful staff of the Coalition?

  3. Simon Mansfield

    Today’s Crikey is truly a work of art. McDonalds is the big bad wolf for wanting to open an outlet that will employ people from an area with some of the worst unemployment in the country. But it’s for our collective good that Holden and Qantas get thrown under the bus.

    Meanwhile, the local populism of the Free Yarra Republic is to be lauded when allied against nasty McDonalds, but that same populism in support of keeping Graincorp locally owned is very very bad.

    There’s nothing quite like the warped ideology of the Afternoon Herald of the Fitzroy Collective – now would you like fries with your hypocrisy or just a double shot skinny latte, before taking the slow train to Canberra for the local hero’s wedding on Saturday. But I guess BK can just ride his bike across town and feel righteous all the way with Christine and her new best fried the Abbott of Christmas Island.

  4. Gratton Wilson

    Hand outs of cash or kind to the private sector cuts across leaving the market to do its work. If you believe in that stuff. There is a case to help when the market is providing a public service. Is it not time for a comprehensive transparent public examination of all taxpayer hand outs to the private sector. A clean out could well fix our so called deficit. Could even result in a cash dividend to ratepayers. Might also help reduce our CO2 emissions.

  5. Steven Grant Haby

    Stop subsidies to the private sector now including private schools. They are businesses with profit and loss margins nothing more nothing less. If they cannot survive on their own let them fail. That was the point I was trying to make albeit using existing ‘carcasses’ (Qantas and Holden) that have been propped up by the government to be nationalised and used for the ‘public good’ … something that the hard right / IPA / HR Nicholls / Murdoch stooges aka Bolt, etc do not understand or comprehend.

  6. leon knight

    Do you have any photos of Peta Credlin in action presently – I imagine she would be a calm and collected picture spreading smoothing oil on troubled waters in the Abbott office….

  7. dazza

    How many millions of tax-payer $$$ is funneled to ‘religious bodies’ such as the exclusive brethrens for example and the mining companies, agriculture etc. Why is Qantas and the car industry being singled out??
    Let’s put all cards on the table while we’re at it Bernard

  8. Simon Mansfield

    Dazza – didn’t you get the memo – economic ideological purity is the new religion.

  9. MJPC

    I am with you, and what about the East Timor debacle with ASIO. When it gets through the Hague, if it goes against Australia (and Downer) that will be an interesting exercise to explain away.
    I am also for Holden to be bought out and become a centre for innovation; cars powered by fuel cells (CSIRO leaders into this research) and bult of carbon fibre (the rest of the world is slow on the uptake in this technology for vehicles). Whilst it remains in the hand of GM it will just be a cashcow for the big end of town in Detroit. As for QANTAS, Joyce and his cronies has stuffed what was a great airline. To allow the airline to be sold off to the highest bidder sounds tempting but has strategic implications in case of emergency. Get rid of the whole lot of them as suggested by Labour and start anew with someone in charge who has a vision, not just a dollar line.

  10. Glen

    “…the Fraser years (without the progressive social and environmental policies)”

    The past is a strange place. It was Campbell’s father who had carriage of saving Fraser Island from Joh’s mining mates, though most assume that the homonym Prime Minister was the driver. Why is it now so utterly beyond conception that a coalition government would so act?

    Joh later made a famously disastrous run for Canberra. Read it here first, and quake: our Campbell is a life-plan kind of guy.

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