The future of Virgin Australia is still up in the air, with the carrier having been hit hard by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, which has decimated travel both domestically and internationally.
Virgin is reportedly carrying debt to the tune of $5 million and is in need of a bailout, with pressure continuing to mount on the federal government to cough up and offer the cash-strapped carrier a lifeline in a bid to save Australian jobs.
So far the Coalition is holding firm though and refusing to deliver a bailout package, however competing bids have been made by the state governments of Queensland and NSW. The New South Wales government confirmed it would provide short-term support to Virgin if the company moved its operations to the new airline at Badgerys Creek. While Annastacia Palaszczuk’s government offered up $200 million, but only if they remain in Brisbane.
Several foreign investors, including Chinese companies, have also reportedly offered to step in to save the company, however Senator Pauline Hanson hit out at these offers, arguing that she does not want to see a national carrier in “the hands of the Chinese”.
“It’s 91 per cent by foreign companies as it is, it hasn’t paid tax in the country for last seven years, and it actually ran a $24 billion turnover and didn’t pay one cent in tax in Australia,” Hanson said, during an appearance on Channel Nine breakfast show Today on Monday. “I’d hate to see Australian jobs go, but do I want to see national carrier in the hands of the Chinese? No I don’t.”
She added: “I am sick and tired of seeing Chinese investment in Australia, and they don’t pay taxes in this country. I don’t believe that we should be allowing them to have more ownership in Australia.”
“I am sick and tired of seeing Chinese investment in Australia.” Pauline Hanson on Chinese-owned airlines considering providing a lifeline to Virgin Australia. #9Today
Posted by TODAY on Sunday, 19 April 2020
Hanson then argued that it is not the responsibility of the government – state or federal – to save the carrier. Instead, she believes the airline’s major shareholders – which include Etihad, Singapore Airlines, Virgin International and a number of Chinese investors – should band together to prop the business up.
That opinion was also reiterated by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on Monday, as he held firm on the stance that the federal government had no interest in “owning an airline” during an appearance on Channel Seven’s Sunrise.
“We want to see two major airlines operating in the Australian domestic market, we want to see two survive, but we don’t want to be owning an airline,” he told Kochie. “Virgin is a good company and has been hit by the global pandemic but it also has shareholders with very deep pockets … let’s see what those major shareholders do.”
— Sunrise (@sunriseon7) April 19, 2020
Also appearing on Today was Stellar magazine’s Sarrah Le Marquand, who agreed with the One Nation leader when it comes to the option of a government bailout.
“Pauline is absolutely right on this, it’s not for the government to bail out the airline,” the journalist said. “Obviously no on wants to see Australian jobs lost, and I think there’s complete consensus that we cannot have a monopoly.
“Prices will go up and service will go down if we go back to being a country with one carrier, but what to do with Virgin is the billion dollar question.”
Viewers also chimed in on the topic, commenting on social media following the debate, with the majority agreeing that the government should not be stepping in and offering up tax-payer dollars as a lifeline.
One person commented: “I always thought Australia supported Australian owned or Australian employment and the ANZAC working visa agreement. I hope Virgin survive they are a great airline to travel with.”
“VA is already foreign owned!!” another viewer wrote. “Do not bail it out. Let it go into Voluntary Administration where they can then restructure the company.
“That is when the QLD govt can/should then step in and be part of a “rescue” plan. I suspect smarter people in the Federal Govt are waiting for this to happen. They don’t want to see the loss of a second carrier either but let the foreign owners of the airline prop it up first!”
While another said: “The Queensland offer also stipulated they needed to keep their headquarters in Brisbane! It’s bad form from NSW, trying to steal the jobs from Queensland for their own gain …. just greedy at a time like this, when it’s in the entire countries best interest to keep this airline afloat!”