James Packer

"With the benefit of hindsight, and hindsight is easy, I think the bid would have been good for shareholders to take": James Packer weighs in on the Qantas debate. Photo: Rob Homer

Billionaire casino mogul and former Qantas director James Packer has said long term shareholders of the airline would have been better off accepting a controversial $11 billion takeover bid by a consortium of private equity firms eight years ago.

Mr Packer was initially reluctant to chat about Qantas, but was persuaded on breakfast radio by his old mate Eddie McGuire to weigh into the conundrum facing the airline, as well as the success of the Australian cricket team, tax policy and even foreign diplomacy.

Qantas, which has had its request for a debt guarantee knocked back by the government, was in a "sad" state, the Crown Resorts chairman, on the phone from Los Angeles, told Mr McGuire on Triple M show The Hot Breakfast on Friday.

Mr Packer was a Qantas director when the aviation company fielded a $11 billion bid from a private equity consortium in 2006. At the time Geoff Dixon was Qantas chief executive and Margaret Jackson chaired the company's board.

Mr Packer said Ms Jackson "got a tough time" because of her outspoken support for the bid. "History is going to show that from a purely economic perspective, for the shareholders at the time, Margaret was 100 per cent right," he said. "With the benefit of hindsight, and hindsight is easy, I think the bid would have been good for shareholders to take back then."

"Qantas is clearly a company not doing as well as it once was and it's an important company for Australia," he said.

The rise of China, one of Mr Packer's favourite topics and something that contributed significantly to the rise in his estimated wealth to $6 billion, is something that the Australian government and businesses have to come to terms with, he said.

"We should be grateful for the business that they're providing to us as a country economically the rise of Asia is something that's going to benefit Australia and we need to be sensitive to those relationships," he said.

Mr Packer said Australia should treasure its relationships with traditional allies the United States and the United Kingdom, but the government should improve its relationship with emerging powers like China and India and avoid "taking sides".

Apple 'greatest company'

A Fairfax Media report this week has shone a light on the extent of tax avoidance in Australia by consumer electronics giant Apple. Mr Packer said it was probably "wrong" of Apple to avoid tax, but he defended the company, describing it as "maybe the greatest company in the world."

"Steve Jobs is the genius of our time and it's not Apple's fault because they're just taking advantage of the rules," he said.

His father Kerry Packer famously told a Senate Committee that anyone who did not do everything legal to reduce their tax bill "wanted their head read."

Mr Packer gave a shout out to Australian cricket captain Michael Clarke, celebrating his leadership in the recent ashes series, and praised the opening win of the rugby league season by the South Sydney Rabbitohs - recipients of new jerseys sponsored by Crown.