Qantas debt debacle hard to pin down

Qantas management knew last week that its debt facility request was dead in the water. Not because it was told but because Tony Abbott stood up in Parliament and said as much. Yet the government has since emphasised that the debt facility remained a live option right up to Monday's cabinet meeting.

Positioning abounds.

The story of what actually happened in that cabinet meeting varies according to the source, with one version suggesting Joe Hockey argued against the debt guarantee on advice from Treasury, two banks, and a separate assessment by private consultants. Another version suggests he was arguing for the sovereign backing until the airline's apparent indifference to its carbon tax bill was cited.

Either way, it seems this was the crystallising moment in the debate leading ministers to agree that if Qantas was so cavalier about kissing off more than $100 million in carbon costs in 2012-13, it hardly needed special treatment.

Qantas' decision to run so hard for the debt guarantee, and therefore to play the carbon tax liability, put government noses out of joint.

Abbott wanted the political ballast for his carbon tax assault.

On Wednesday the airline adopted a more conciliatory tone, admitting the carbon tax had cost it significantly and already accounted for $59 million in losses in the first half of this year. But it is not satisfied the government's proposal to repeal the Qantas Sale Act without the parliamentary numbers to achieve it, means much at all.

This has been a public policy debacle in which all sides, including both major parties, have shifted and contradicted themselves.

This story Qantas debt debacle hard to pin down first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.