Joe Hockey Says Qantas CEO Alan Joyce Blames A 'Low-Level' Staffer For A Troublesome Statement On The Carbon Tax

Joe HockeyJoe Hockey says a low-level Qantas employee issued a controversial statement on the carbon tax (photo: Lisa Maree Williams)

Australia’s Treasurer says Qantas CEO Alan Joyce told him a “low level” employee was responsible for a statement released by the airline that claimed its multi-million dollar carbon tax payments were not a major problem for the company.

Joe Hockey recounted a conversation with Joyce on ABC Radio this morning, after news reports suggested the statement may have played a part in costing Qantas a proposed debt guarantee.

The airline has since insisted that the carbon tax does have a material impact on its bottom line. Qantas announced a $252 million underlying first-half loss last week.

“[Joyce explained] a low-level person at Qantas put out a statement that is not consistent with either his statements last week or his previous statements on the carbon tax, and I said ‘well that’s a matter for you’; that was about it,” Hockey said of the conversation, which happened yesterday.

The treasurer also denied pressure was placed on the airline to change its stance on the politically contentious tax.

“We certainly don’t put pressure on companies like that and Labor shouldn’t judge us by their standard,” said Hockey.

Hockey reportedly read the original statement out to his party colleagues while options to assist Qantas were being debated, saying that if $106 million was not a big deal, then the airline could probably do without the debt guarantee.

Qantas clarified its position in later statements, which recast the $106 million payment as a contributing factor to the airline’s woes.

At an Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce event yesterday, Joyce spelled out the problems the airline faced from the carbon tax. He said:

And there was some commentary, maybe misunderstanding out there, about what our position was on this, and as I said, we’re having to respond to rumours and comments that are being made about how we actually stand, and what we issued today was just the normal daily clarifications that we’re making on everything that we do. And it’s absolutely no different or not inconsistent with what we’ve said before. We’ve always had the same view on what the carbon tax situation has been for us as a company, and as Chairman of IATA I’ve had to take the lead role internationally with what this means for the aviation industry globally.

Qantas declined to comment further.

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