Monday, February 20, 2006

The whining kangaroo

I’ve written before regarding the tendency of Qantas, Australia’s locally-owned international airline, to gorge itself at the public affirmative-action teat.

Since then, Qantas has been busily whining to the Australian Government about how it’s too bloody hard to operate in a highly competitive market, so could they please have some more free kicks!

The airline has for some time been making ominous noises about shedding thousands of its aircraft maintenance staff in Australia, with the subtext that the mass layoffs just might happen unless it gets some more relief from the real world.

The, er, lobbying is not couched in terms of Government handouts, of course. As Qantas CEO, Geoff Dixon, puts it, “We have indicated that a range of decisions that Qantas must make, including purchase of aircraft, can only be made when we know the policy settings we are going to be operating under over the next three to five years.”

Such “policy settings” include Government blocking of the bid by Singapore Airlines to compete on the trans-Pacific Australia-USA route, and giving Qantas a stunningly generous depreciation schedule so that the airline can accrue massive tax benefits.

Well, it now looks like Qantas will get its way on the former, but not the latter. Will that be enough for Qantas to retain those thousands of Australian jobs?

Astonishingly, Qantas has been arguing that its difficulties have been largely due to the international aviation market being skewed in favour of national carriers whose operations are subsidised by their governments. The remedy would appear to be more of the same locally, except that the Australian taxpayer is expected to subsidise a private company, of which almost half is owned by overseas interests.

So much for the public benefit from privatisation.

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