Qld tells NSW to ‘back off’ in battle over Virgin Australia bailout

Virgin Australia is facing a dilemma as it looks at different ways to stay afloat with Queensland and NSW offering cash with the caveat it either keeps it headquarters in Brisbane or relocates to Sydney.

The Queensland government has offered Virgin $200 million as long as it maintains its Brisbane HQ.

But now the NSW government is in talks with Virgin about moving its national headquarters to Sydney.

“Virgin should have their headquarters for both Virgin and Tiger in Sydney,” NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet told Sky News.

“I’m always open for businesses right across the country to relocate to New South Wales and create jobs here in our state, particularly when you look at the aerotroplis in western Sydney.

“It provides a significant opportunity for Virgin and other airlines to relocate to our state.”

The carrier has so far had its pleas for a federal bailout left unanswered and is desperately looking for options as it burns through cash.

But Queensland Development Minister Cameron Dick told the NSW government to “back off”.

“Back off, back right off,” he said. “There is nothing more dangerous than a Queenslander with their back against the wall.

“NSW might want to bring a peashooter to the fight – that’s fine, we will bring a bazooka.”

The coronavirus lockdown has cost Queensland’s tourism sector $6.5 billion so far, with Tourism Minister Kate Jones warning the impact will be far worse if Virgin goes under.

“We estimate at this stage, that the industry in Queensland alone has copped a $6.5 billion hit and it has affected around 70,000 jobs across Queensland,” she told ABC News.

“The number one issue confronting the recovery for tourism is having two airlines operating.

“If Virgin goes under … it will take us twice as long to try to get back on our feet. We rely on competition in the skies.

“I think it is incumbent on all governments to really think hard about the history of the tourism industry when we last saw the collapse of a national carrier in our country.”

Former Qld premier Peter Beattie has also weighed in, saying “Australia needs two airlines”.

“Make no mistake, places like the Gold Coast, Cairns and Whitsundays will never recover unless there’s a (aviation) duopoly,’’ he told The Courier Mail.

“Australia needs two airlines. I know it’s tricky from a government perspective, especially at Commonwealth level, but I’m urging every Queenslander to write to their local federal MP and ask them to ensure Virgin does not fold.

“Regional tourism will go by the wayside if they fail.’’

Beattie warned that with just one carrier, prices would invariably go up, particularly in places like Cairns, Gold Coast and the Whitsundays.

“That’s not good for Queensland. That’s not good for tourism. It’s not good for Australia,’’ he said.