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Qantas chairman says he’s ‘not walking away’ from Joyce

written by Adam Thorn | September 27, 2023

Qantas chairman Richard Goyder. (Image: Qantas)

Qantas chairman Richard Goyder told the senate on Wednesday he is “not going to walk away” from Alan Joyce, as he defended his former CEO’s record.

Facing tough questioning from Senator Bridget McKenzie, he argued, “I think Alan Joyce did an excellent job as CEO over 15 years in what is a demanding industry.”

Goyder was interrogated alongside new CEO Vanessa Hudson and general counsel Andrew Finch on the performance of the Flying Kangaroo post-COVID.

While acknowledging there was work to be done to improve the airline’s performance, he later launched a staunch defence of his senior executives, and how they navigated Qantas through COVID.

“I think the most significant challenge we’ve had at Qantas is the existential threat we had through COVID,” he said.


“And I think the board and management handled that situation as well as we possibly could – the most challenging circumstances of all time.

“Our major competitor went broke, went into administration, letting $7 billion of creditors, billions of dollars of bondholders, shareholders getting nothing.

“We navigated through that. Our shareholders supported us. We retained the confidence of the capital markets, the debt and equity markets and without that, we had no future.

“So I think the most significant challenge that the board has had in my time as chair, we’ve actually navigated very well.

“Clearly, we’ve got issues now that we need to face into and deal with. We’ve got a new CEO and Vanessa is being very upfront with our customers and our people on what we need to do.

“We’re reviewing a number of things. And the board takes its role very, very seriously around that. And clearly, I take my role seriously.”

The formally titled Select Committee on Commonwealth Bilateral Air Service Agreements was announced to allow senators to challenge high-profile figures involved in the federal government’s decision to reject Qatar flying extra flights into Australia.

Goyder’s appearance followed Virgin Australia’s CEO claiming she believed the federal government was originally planning to grant the extra services – but changed its mind after Alan Joyce told the Transport Minister he was “not happy” about the decision.

Jayne Hrdlicka said the Minister, Catherine King, personally told her about the then-Qantas CEO’s views in January, and added he had requested a meeting to discuss the decision.

The federal government then announced in July it was denying the Middle Eastern airline the right to increase its frequency into Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth from the current 28 flights per week.

Minister King later stressed that no single factor spurred the decision, which she has repeatedly said was made according to the “national interest”.

Hrdlicka, however, appeared to strongly hint that she believed Alan Joyce’s views may have swayed her decision. She said she first met with King in January, where she said she was led to believe Qatar, a codeshare partner of Virgin, would be granted the flights.

“Based on this conversation, I felt comfortable that Qatar would be granted additional air rights. I was so sufficiently comfortable that I did not raise [the issue] with the prime minister when I saw him at the Australian Open in January as part of my responsibilities as the chair of Tennis Australia,” Hrdlicka said.

She later said that the Minister also revealed that Alan Joyce “had heard that her department was recommending negotiations with Qatar should commence, and he was not happy and had asked to speak with her.”

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