Qantas chairman Richard Goyder and CEO Vanessa Hudson
Chairman Richard Goyder and CEO Vanessa Hudson defend Qantas at a parliamentary hearing. Image by Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS
  • politics

Qantas chair to stay at controls despite mounting flak

Alex Mitchell September 27, 2023

Qantas chairman Richard Goyder has launched a passionate self defence as calls for him to resign from the embattled airline continue to rumble.

In a fiery parliamentary public hearing, Mr Goyder wouldn’t answer when asked if his position was untenable but said he felt assured he had major shareholder support to continue.

The committee is investigating what role Qantas played in the transport minister’s decision to knock back Qatar Airways’ application to double its flights to Australia.

On Wednesday, attention turned to scandals embroiling Qantas and its battered reputation.

After the Transport Workers’ Union, Pilots Association and Australian Shareholders’ Association added their names to a number of politicians calling for him to quit, Mr Goyder stayed resolute.

While admitting Qantas “has some work to do”, he said a meeting with shareholders after Alan Joyce’s recent retirement as CEO encouraged him to kick on.

“My history in business has been one of high ethics,” Mr Goyder told the inquiry.

“I’ve navigated a company through the global financial crisis, chaired Qantas through the most existential crisis we’ve ever had as an airline, and right now the major shareholders and the board feel I’m the best person to navigate us through the current situation.”

Labor senator Tony Sheldon was unmoved by Qantas’ apology to the committee, suggesting executives at the carrier were only saying sorry because they’d been caught.

Senator Sheldon fired back when Mr Goyder defended the airline’s illegal sacking of 1700 workers during the pandemic by saying it made business sense.

“When Qantas starts talking about the court finding … you say there were sound commercial reasons,” he told the inquiry.

“Isn’t it pretty insincere to apologise for the staff and families whose lives were destroyed, but then say on the other hand, we have sound commercial reasons?”

Qantas CEO Vanessa Hudson confirmed the airline asked the government not to approve Qatar’s bid.

But Qantas wouldn’t commit to publicly revealing its submission to the government.

“We said the rest of the market should be given a chance to recover before such increases were considered and that is exactly what’s happened,” Ms Hudson told the committee.

Earlier, Qatar said it was “surprised and shocked” after discovering through the media its application was rejected, but maintained it could deliver the extra services by Christmas if the government changed its mind.

Liberal senator Simon Birimingham said that would be great news for travellers and Australia’s tourism sector.

Qatar estimated the additional flights would add $3 billion of economic benefits to Australia, adding the Victorian government was predicting a second daily flight from Doha to Melbourne would create 900 jobs.

Australian Airports Association CEO James Goodwin said a review into the Qatar rejection was necessary.

“We should be putting the red carpet out for any carrier that wants to fly into and out of Australia,” he said.