Virgin Australia founder and shareholder, Sir Richard Branson, has taken out full page open letter advertisements in Australia’s Sunday newspapers on February 16 calling for the Australian government to not “prop up the Qantas Group.”
Branson’s letter warns that “business people worldwide will think twice about investing in Australia” for fear of government intervention in their sectors. The letter quotes Treasurer Joe Hockey’s February 13 comment where he called Virgin Australia “a 2,000 pound Gorilla,” and asked rhetorically “what does that make Qantas?”
“Qantas has gone to shareholders on numerous occasions over the last few years to wage its capacity war against us,” Branson said. “Now that the shareholders have turned that tap off, the company is turning to the Australian taxpayer to bail it out.
“We don’t care what the government does with the Qantas Sale Act,” he continued, adding “what is most important is that the government doesn’t provide financial assistance to Qantas, enabling them to reinstate their monopoly. It is not right for the industry and it will not benefit the Australian travelling public or the economy.”
In a February 12 speech to the Transport & Tourism Forum, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce stressed that he had not sought a handout from the government, but added that “when one set of rules applies to Qantas, and another to our competitors, then a clear distortion exists.”