Mark Latham fires up at Jeff Kennett about defending the 'Qantas club' on <i>Sunrise</i>.

Mark Latham fires up at Jeff Kennett about defending the 'Qantas Cub' on Sunrise.

A stupendous case of cabin fever has erupted over the Qantas job cuts during an early morning debate between two of the nation's most outspoken and quick tempered (albeit retired) politicians and a pair of usually sunny television hosts.

Former Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett and ex-Labor leader Mark Latham went head-to-head on Channel Seven's breakfast show, Sunrise, on Friday, over the news that Qantas was cutting 5000 full-time jobs in an attempt to recover $2 billion on its balance sheet.

Latham levelled the blame at Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce for the cuts, telling Sunrise hosts Sam Armytage and Andrew O'Keefe (who has been filling in for David Koch while he is on leave) that Joyce should resign and the airline would benefit from a new management team.

Caught in the crossfire ... Samantha Armatage and Andrew O'Keefe during the Qantas debate.

Caught in the crossfire ... Samantha Armatage and Andrew O'Keefe during the Qantas debate.

"Where's Kochie this morning?" Latham said on air. "He could be in crisis talks with Qantas. He could do a much better job, [he] couldn't do any worse.”

Kennett, however, took immediate exception to Latham's comments and accused Armytage and O'Keefe of taking “cheap shots”, saying he was “disappointed" in their level of questioning.

“Unlike Mark, I support what Mr Joyce is doing. It's not easy, it's certainly very tough and at least he's trying to get the airline back on its feet," Kennett said.

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce had warned "tough" decisions were needed to strip $2 billion in costs from the airline.

At the centre of the row ... Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce. Photo: Angus Mordant

“This isn't a popularity poll. It's not good enough for two journalists or broadcasters, who I suspect have never employed a person in their life, to actually be sitting there questioning an individual who, in my opinion, is dealing ...," he said before being interrupted by O'Keefe.

"It's not the questions, it's the answers, everyone's asking these questions," a clearly put-out O'Keefe demanded of Kennett, as the two continued to talk over the top of one-another.

Armytage also returned fire saying: “It is a private company and it seems that he [Joyce] hasn't been doing a great job Jeff, because it's not doing very well.”

Kennett then turned his steely gaze on Armytage, asking: “When did you last employ a person? Never. When did you last pay payroll tax?”

Latham leapt to Armytage's defence, questioning Kennett's motivations.

“We know where Jeff's sitting," the former Labor leader said. "You're safely buckled into seat 1A for the future. A nice big Qantas seat in a nice big Qantas lounge Jeff, this is [a] spin-free segment here.

"This is not just some blind defence of a company that's sacking 5000 people! They're sacking 5000 people and the bloke who's caused the financial damage is staying in his job, how unfair is that?

"You're about accountability and transparency in life well get rid of the bloke that's caused the problem.”

In addressing Latham as he hit fever pitch in his argument, Kennett drew attention to the recent job losses at Holden.

"Mark. two weeks ago you said it wasn't the politicians' fault that the car industry had come to a grinding halt it was because we the customers were buying different models," Kennett argued. "The same is happening with the airline industry, we have got more choices and we're choosing elsewhere and unfortunately that is having a profound affect on Qantas, let's hope they get it right. ... Until we become a modern country, with modern industrial relations policies we're all at risk."

But the argument did not sway Latham in the slightest. It only made him more excitable as he continued to blame Joyce's running of the company.

"How hard is it to fly from A to B and make money in a country like Australia - it's not rocket science Jeff. ...You're just mounting a blind defence of Alan Joyce ... you're all part of the Qantas Club, you're all Liberal! You're part of the Qantas Club Jeff Kennett."

The regular segment then had to be interrupted and ended on a far colder note than it had begun.

- with Aja Styles