Qantas chairman should follow Joyce, and quit: Senator

Alan Joyce to leave Qantas early

Qantas chairman Richard Goyder has been urged to follow Alan Joyce out the door, amid the airline’s ongoing woes.

Labor senator Tony Sheldon, a former Transport Workers Union official, made the call after Mr Joyce’s sudden decision on Tuesday to bring forward his retirement by two months.

Senator Sheldon said it was “a good day for Australia”.

“The Qantas board cannot hide behind Joyce’s resignation. Richard Goyder should go next,” Senator Sheldon said.

“Mr Joyce’s resignation makes the Liberals and Nationals’ continued support for Mr Joyce’s labour hire loophole even more indefensible.”

Qantas announced on Tuesday that Mr Joyce would leave immediately, following the ongoing political furore over the airline’s profits and service.

Mr Joyce had advised the board he was bringing forward his retirement by two months to “help the company accelerate its renewal”, the airline said.

CEO-designate Vanessa Hudson will take over from Wednesday.

But Senator Sheldon said the departures shouldn’t stop there.

“It is clear that this board and Richard Goyder needs to also be held to account for the decisions that this company has been making over this period of time. The real test for Goyder and the board is that they turn around and make sure that $24 million is clipped,” he said.

“Anyone … who touches Qantas at the moment obviously has the smell of filth on them”, he said.

“That filth doesn’t leave with the board still smelling, as far as I’m concerned, until they make fundamental structural changes to their operation.”

Mr Goyder thanked Mr Joyce for his leadership, but has ruled out stepping down. He said it was important he remained in the chairman’s role as Ms Hudson took over from Mr Joyce.

“I am fully committed,” he told The Australian.

“I will get to work on these things, and we’ll do what we need to do. And I think my role in that is pretty important.”

Industrial Relations Minister Tony Burke also weighed in, accusing the national carrier of taking advantage of “labour hire loopholes” during Mr Joyce’s 15-years as its boss.

“I’ve been very conscious that when we talk about the labour hire loophole, most companies don’t use it. But Qantas is a company that has been using the labour hire loophole in a pretty extraordinary way,” he said.

“My objective is to make sure that people at Qantas are paid fairly.

“I look forward to working with the new CEO, Vanessa Hudson.”

ACTU president Michele O’Neil also urged the airline to dump its “culture of profit over people”.

The Australian and International Pilots Association said Mr Joyce’s departure would provide Qantas with the “circuit breaker” it needed. The “spirit of Australia may be deflated but it’s not defeated”, AIPA president Tony Lucas said.

“If we can all work together, I’m confident Qantas can be great once more,” he said.

As news of Mr Joyce’s departure broke early on Tuesday, there were multiple reports on social media of pilots announcing it to passengers mid-flight.

“Breaking news … Alan Joyce has resigned as CEO of Qantas. That’s all I have to say about that!” Seven Network sports presenter Jason Richardson tweeted, with the hashtag Qantaspilot.

In his farewell statement, Mr Joyce said he was proud of his 15 years at Qantas’ helm.

“There have been many ups and downs and there is clearly much work still to be done, especially to make sure we always deliver for our customers,” Mr Joyce said.

“But I leave knowing that the company is fundamentally strong and has a bright future.”

He said his departure would allow the company to “move ahead with its renewal as a priority”.

“The best thing I can do under these circumstances is to bring forward my retirement and hand over to Vanessa and the new management team now, knowing they will do an excellent job,” he said.

Mr Joyce’s decision came after a horror week for Qantas, been marked by a Senate grilling on delays and warnings the airline faces a possible $250 million fine.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission announced it was taking court action after Qantas allegedly advertised tickets for flights that had already been cancelled.

The company is reviewing the consumer watchdog’s allegations and has acknowledged its standards “fell well short” as the airline emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last month Qantas announced a record pre-tax profit of $2.47 billion for the past financial year, after recording a loss of almost $2 billion the previous year.

Soon after, it came under pressure to pay back the money it received from the federal government at the height of the pandemic.

It was given $2.7 billion from taxpayers, including $900 million from the JobKeeper program.

Shareholders will formally vote on the appointment of Ms Hudson as managing director at the company’s annual meeting in November.

-with AAP

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