QANTAS is more than the Victa motor mower, Hills Hoist and Peters Ice Cream phenomena, where the brand lives on under new owners. The Qantas brand is a big deal to Australia. Its loss would cause heartburn for the Abbott government. Can Australians understand an economy without national symbols of production, as well as “national” ownership?
The challenge for the Abbott government is different to that faced by the Hawke and Keating governments. Their task was to sell government assets into private hands. What was not so apparent then is becoming more so. As with Holden (assuming the brand fades), what will the Australian industrial landscape look like without familiar brands as well as Australian ownership?
In the late 1980s senator John Button, then industry minister in the Hawke government, walked into an ALP centre-left caucus meeting, my then home team, at Parliament House, Canberra, and asked the question, “What is the government doing owning an airline?”