An August 14 letter from Air New Zealand Chairman Dr Jim Farmer to John Howard makes a mockery of the Government’s claims it was ignorant of the crisis facing Ansett and raise serious questions about the Howard Government’s commitment to get Ansett flying again, ACTU Secretary Greg Combet said today.

This letter makes a number of things very clear.

“One – John Anderson and his department met with representatives of Air New Zealand on several occasions prior to August 14 and had been provided with financial information regarding the very serious losses of Ansett.

Other documents also confirm that John Anderson was told in June that Ansett was losing $18 million a week.

“Two – John Anderson’s continued support for the Qantas plan to buy into Air New Zealand was a significant impediment to a resolution to Air New Zealand and Ansett’s problems.

“Three – John Howard and John Anderson were aware that Air New Zealand and Ansett were facing a serious liquidity crisis which would cause major disruption to the business if the situation was not resolved before September.

What this letter proves is that John Anderson has misled the Australian public about the extent of his knowledge of Ansett’s problems.”

Mr Combet said the letter painted a picture of a Minister who failed to take any action while Ansett, the jobs of 17,000 Australians and 40% of the Australian aviation market hung in the balance.

The Federal Government’s closeness to Qantas had also hindered Ansett’s chances of survival, Mr Combet said. John Howard revealed in Federal Parliament yesterday that the Government had based its view of Ansett’s financial situation on a briefing it received from Qantas, despite receiving contrary information from Air New Zealand.

“All of this information tells us that the Howard Government bears a substantial responsibility for the collapse of Ansett.