4 Nov 2011

Qantas boss says it was his decision to ground fleet

5:35 pm on 4 November 2011

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce has told an Australian parliamentary inquiry it was his decision alone to ground the entire Qantas fleet last Saturday.

He added that his decision - which led to almost 68,000 passengers around the world being stranded - had later been endorsed by the board.

A Senate committee is examining a bill that would ensure Qantas keeps its principal operational centre in Australia.

Mr Joyce said such a move would not protect Australian jobs and would put the company in jeopardy.

Qantas plans to expand further into Asia and some of those operations will not fly to or from Australia, but Mr Joyce assured the committee the vast majority of the airline's operations will stay in Australia.

According to the ABC, Mr Joyce also conceded he considered locking out staff well before grounding the fleet - but says he did not talk to the Government about the plan.

He indicated the Federal Government should have known a lockout was a real possibility because it is a provision in the Fair Work Act.

In a sometimes robust exchange with senators, Mr Joyce was accused of avoiding questions "like Richard Nixon" and in turn he said the Senate hearing was "like a McCarthy trial".

Mr Joyce said Qantas "had done some planning for a potential lockout" but said he had not told the Prime Minister or Government ministers during frequent meetings and conversations.

Greens leader Bob Brown accused him of deceiving the Government.

"The core of your plan was a lockout which then necessitated the grounding, but you spoke to the Prime Minister, the Minister for Transport and their Opposition opposite numbers about the grounding but you deceived them by not saying you were aiming at a lockout, didn't you?" Mr Brown said.

Mr Brown accused Mr Joyce of "having a big stick behind your back" which he did not show to anybody.

But Mr Joyce denied this and said he acted to save the company.

"Fair Work Australia gives us the ability to take industrial action as well," he said, describing protracted union action as "death by a thousand cuts".

"That was killing Qantas. I had to do something. I had to take a significant decision. I know, in having to do the lockout, I did it because it was the only way to bring this to an end and it is very clear in Fair Work Australia that the employer has that ability," he said.