I reckon Australia owes a fair bit to Chris Corrigan. For generations our waterfront was home to the worst workplace rorts and inefficiencies in the country. For many years (decades), management and unions conspired to line their own pockets at the expense of exporter and importers.
But in 1998 along came Chris Corrigan. He bought a stake in Patrick Stevedoring, buckled down, took huge risks, overcame great odds and succeeded where many had failed; he broke the backs of union power and reformed the Australian waterfront. He made a fortune, but Australian industry was a great beneficiary as well.
Since then Corrigan has turned his attention elsewhere; road (through Toll), rail (through National Rail and Freight), sea (Holyman Shipping) and air (through part ownership of Virgin Blue). He (via Patrick's) is slowly changing our transport system, and if his recent bid for control of Virgin Blue succeeds, he will soon sit atop an integrated rail, road, sea and air transport system. And all duopoly businesses.
Is this a good thing? No doubt it is good for Corrigan, but is it really about reform and efficiency, or is it about another cosy little duopoly business for Corrigan?
For all his talk of competition, Corrigan is now leading the pleasant life of a
waterfront duopolist. He is a rail freight monopolist. He has some truck freight that is a little more competitive.
But in the high margin vehicle import and handling business, it’s a duopoly, or
near enough to one. So should he be allowed to enter into the Australian airline industry, creating and controlling another duopoly business for himself? Will it benefit the Australian people?
He has already signaled his intent on airfares- Virgin fares must change says Corrigan
Basically he is saying that "we are going to shove prices up once we get control, ignoring the trend around the world to low cost, value travel."
And if Brett Godfrey and his Virgin Blue people don't go along, things will change is the message from this SMH story - Corrigan signals end of cheap airfares
Maybe we shouldn't care too much, after all, there are many great duopolies of Australian business. In newspapers, News Limited and Fairfax; beer, Fosters and Lion Nathan; packaging, Amcor and Richard Pratt's Visy group. Banking is a comfortable cartel dominated by five banks that constantly eye each other and do little to stimulate price competition.....
I just get the feeling that Corrigan wants to control another duopoly, and to rebuild the glory days of Qantas vs. Ansett.... when it cost $300 to fly to Sydney rather than $100. And airline proprietors were making big fat profits...