Yesterday’s question time, a childish brawl over who knew what and when about the Qantas decision to ground its aircraft, lock out staff, and leave customers around the world stranded, got me thinking. Not just about the pointless squabbling amongst the pollies over a point of history that legally is none of their business, but about the way a business can be subject to expectations way out of line with their competitors, and its legal obligations.
It is obvious that Qantas had considered grounding as a tactic in their industrial dispute, it is completely stupid to think Alan Joyce woke up on Saturday with a bright idea, there would have been a deep consideration at board level of a very aggressive and disruptive tactic that was almost of a “bet the farm” nature.
The real question is, what obligations does Qantas have to act in what politicians consider to be the public interest, when Qantas is a public company, and the Government sold their shareholding years ago in order to free themselves from the demands of being the major shareholder?
Qantas is fighting for its survival, the competitive world of aviation has moved on, and Qantas must adjust or disappear, and yet, there are clamourings for it to ignore the probability of its demise without change.
What gives the pollies, and a large portion of the public the right to demand that Qantas shareholders take a bath to satisfy an emotional attachment that is not backed by any financial commitment? If this was almost any other company in the top 100 listed companies, the tactics in an industrial dispute would be of little general interest, only the stakeholders directly involved would be making their points, and then within the legislated framework.
Why is Qantas different?