Running a corporation and wondering how you can get your hands on some easy money courtesy of the Queensland taxpayer?

It's not difficult. Just threaten to move your business interstate. It's a tactic that has worked an absolute treat for Qantas, which has just played state treasurers off each other in a brilliant piece of corporate bluff, so it has to be worth a shot.

The precedent has been set. Merely announce you are seriously considering taking your bat and ball and moving to another state and Treasurer Cameron Dick will send his lackeys scurrying after you waving the government cheque book.

"Stay," they will plead. "Name your price. Please don't leave."

It really is that simple. Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce must still be laughing at how he played us for absolute mugs and how easy it all was.

First you announce that you are reviewing all your options, including moving your corporate headquarters. Obviously, you have no intention of doing this because there were very good reasons for putting them where they are in the first place.

The very mention of this, however, creates panic in the state in which you are based and causes other states to salivate at the prospect of luring you to their own patch and bathe in the golden glow of public adoration.

 

Treasurer Cameron Dick
Treasurer Cameron Dick

 

All options in the case of Qantas included moving its Queensland facilities, which were built where they are because it made good sense to do so, but apparently this never occurred to anyone in Queensland Treasury.

All Joyce had to do once he'd announced he was reviewing his options and without uttering a syllable of commitment to change the status quo was sit back and watch the states try to outbid each other.

If these same states had thought to collaborate and say to each other, "This is a stitch-up. We won't play the game if you won't," they could all have saved themselves a lot of money, but this was the stuff of which footy matches are made - state against state.

Joyce would have known that the respective state egos would triumph over rational thought and so the financial "incentives" - money to you and me - rolled in as they paid him to do what he had always intended doing in the first place which was essentially nothing. Brilliant!

It was even rumoured at one stage that Joyce was considering moving his headquarters from Sydney to Brisbane!

What a coup this would have been for the Sunshine State, allowing Premier Palaszczuk to give the metaphorical finger to her bete noire, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, and text "Queenslander!"

We fell for it, of course, and you wouldn't need to be the sharpest shovel in the shed to work out where this rumour came from although no one on this side of the border seemed to spot the kangaroo pawprints all over it. Qantas HQ, of course, remains firmly anchored in Sydney.

 

The Qantas maintenance facility at Brisbane Airport
The Qantas maintenance facility at Brisbane Airport

 

How much money did Queensland throw at the poor, struggling Flying Kangaroo, which in the pre-COVID financial year made an underlying profit before tax of $1.3 billion and which saw Mr Joyce, according to the Australian Council of Super Investors, achieve a realised pay of $23.88 million?

This is the same company that has received $726 million in JobKeeper payments, $248 million in other government assistance packages and hundreds of millions in subsidised airfares.

Treasurer Cameron Dick has hailed his negotiations with Qantas as a win for Queensland, saying he has saved the jobs of those employed at the Brisbane heavy maintenance facility - the same facility that was never going anywhere, anytime.

Modesty is not a quality often in evidence in politics in this state and you might wonder, if you were possessed of a cynical disposition, that if it was such a fantastic deal for Queensland taxpayers, Treasurer Dick would be only too happy to share the details of his clever financial manoeuvrings with us.

Given that Mr Dick is said to be firming as premier-in-waiting now that Deputy Premier Steven "C-word" Miles is pursuing a new career path as Official Government Clown, you'd reckon he would welcome the accolades that would flow.

Wonder you might, but you would do so in vain because it's a secret between Mr Joyce and Mr Dick.

Nothing to see here. Just move along. You have to admire Joyce and his team for the way they conned the states. It was nice work, but we pick up the tab. As for the secrecy, it's now standard practice for a government that was elected on the back of a pledge to be open and transparent with the people who elected it.

 

 

Originally published as Stitch-up: How Qld got suckered by Qantas