The chairman in the middle of the virus crisis
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Patrick Durkin

If anyone saw the fallout of the coronavirus up close over the last 48 hours it was , of Qantas, the AFL and .

Goyder says having a brother-in-law who flies for Qantas stood down on Thursday made their decision about “as close to home” as it gets.

The former has been based at his Mosman Park home in Perth but trekking into the Woodside office each day to be part of the toughest decisions being made across the land.

“Alan [Joyce] has been superb through this, he called it as a severe event very early,” Goyder tells AFR Weekend. “I think because of that Qantas was well prepared, but what happened here is almost every day the thing has got exponentially worse.”

“We are in uncharted territory but there are some fundamentals I reckon … you’ve got to go back to basics because that’s all that matters. The health and wellbeing of people and for business … don’t run out of cash.”


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Qantas chairman Richard Goyder (left) and CEO have been in constant contact during the crisis. David Mariuz

He says Health Minister Greg Hunt – who joined the AFL’s meeting he admits was a “tough call” – Mathias Cormann and Josh Frydenberg “have been remarkably accessible” but “you wouldn’t envy them in their roles”.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan have been part of tough conversations he had this week too.

But a text from Aldi executives on Friday about temporary work for some of the 20,000 Qantas staff helped lift Goyder’s spirits and believe the country will “pull together” to see the best of people after some distasteful behaviour.

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“You wouldn’t wish this on anyone but it’s been quite invigorating,” Goyder says of his wild week. Daniel Kalisz

“I’m anticipating a quieter weekend but we will see,” he says. “I just need to make sure I’m accessible to Alan [Joyce], Peter [Coleman] and Gill [McLachlan].

“There’s the conversations and support for CEOs and all those conversations are ‘what do you think?’ You become a pretty important sounding board for CEOs when they are facing significant and difficult decisions.”

The madness kicked off seriously on Tuesday with a Qantas conference call into the airline’s war room in Mascot, Sydney, starting at 4.30am Perth time. It led to the decision to ground flights and by Thursday stand down two-thirds of its 30,000 workers.

At the same time, meetings and conference calls were picking up steam at AFL’s Melbourne headquarters ahead of a marathon day of meetings on Wednesday and the controversial call that night to push ahead with the season without crowds.

There were also as many as 30 or more long scheduled conference calls with Woodside investors Goyder had to squeeze in as they watched a collapse in the oil price and reports from unions of up to 400 layoffs of workers from offshore platforms.

“You wouldn’t wish this on anyone but it’s been quite invigorating,” Goyder says of his wild week.

“It reminds me of my days as a CEO. I never thought ‘oh my goodness, I can’t do this’, in fact quite the opposite … I actually think having the three roles has been really helpful this week because I’m getting different and really good intel.”

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Qantas CEO Joyce on Friday called the crisis worse than the GFC or the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on the US on September 11, 2001 … but the ubiquitous chairman sees similarities and differences.

“There’s a GFC similarity because credit markets closed through the GFC and there was an ‘oh my gosh’ moment in the GFC and I think we are probably at that now with this,” he says.

“The thing concerning me most is because of the isolation and distancing measures the impact that will have on small business.

“The key thing will be when people can see an end to it, even if it is not the end.”

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