With no disrespect to the terrible events of 11 September 2001 there was another disaster in that month in Australia as financial collapse came to Ansett.
It took a story of the magnitude of the mass murder that occurred in Manhattan, Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon on that day to consign the, to many people, unthinkable collapse of a major Australian airline to secondary story status, and on many newspapers, blow it off pages one, two and three except for pointers to coverage further inside the editions.
In the days immediately before 9/11 the Tampa story and the Ansett crisis were constantly on or near page one and the top of bulletins. There was then no social media even remotely resembling the channels of today by volume or process.(Newspapers had a future, or so most of us thought.)
The highlights of the Ansett story had included Richard Branson ripping up a dummy cheque for $250 million at Melbourne Airport on 4 September 2001, after waving it aloft and saying:
Yeah, well, thank you very much for coming. I’m afraid I have some bad news. After much deliberation we’ve decided to sell out to Ansett. I’m afraid that in Australia you just don’t have the competition policies in this country to protect smaller businesses, whether in the airline industry or elsewhere, and I’m afraid it also means 5,000 job losses between Ansett and Virgin Blue.
Furthermore, I’m afraid I believe that it will mean the end of low fare travel in this country since after the demise of Compass, Impulse and Virgin, no-one else will be foolish enough to set up in this country.
Anyway, I’m off to England with my quarter-of-a-billion dollar cheque, and thank you very much.
It also coincided with a policy of deliberate lying by the transport Minister, John Anderson, about how Ansett wasn’t going broke, while behind the scenes he lead the contingency planning for the inevitable.
This reporter was contributing extensively on the Ansett issues to the Australian Financial Review, and has a substantial dossier of information which has been variously published, not published or published but not widely noticed as the consequences of the terror attacks framed the news rundowns for many months following.
Extracts from this material, including an unpublished book, will be posted today and over the weekend, with occasional parenthetical notes to cover off on references which might only make sense if earlier parts of the manuscript had been read.
This reporter also went to bed early on the evening Australian time that the morning attacks occurred in the US.
At about 2 am the telex machine began churning out a media release from Qantas, which detailed the diversions of four Qantas flights that were on their way to or from the US when the attacks occurred and US airspace was closed.
The press release didn’t refer to the reasons for these mass diversions. Logging on to the old pre-broadband internet, the ABC site headline began to take shape from the top down.
AMERICA UNDER ATTACK