Queensland’s Premier has branded Melbourne Airport’s pitch to woo a revived Virgin Australia away from Brisbane as “absolutely ridiculous”.
Annastacia Palaszczuk said, “Virgin’s headquarters are here, they should stay here and we will fight to keep them here because we need it for our regional communities.”
The strongly-worded rebuttal comes after the airport’s chief executive said on Wednesday that Brisbane “doesn’t provide the depth or diversity of traffic, business traffic, to compete with Qantas”.
It’s also the latest in a week-long tit-for-tat battle between states and territories bidding to save Virgin Australia, now in administration, in exchange for the airline shifting its base.
Brisbane Airport chief executive Gert-Jan de Graaff also mounted a defence for the state, claiming his city has room to grow “in spades” compared with rivals Melbourne and Sydney.
“With a new runway opening in July, Brisbane Airport will be the only non-capacity constrained, curfew free capital city airport in the country,” de Graaff said.
The row between states began on Saturday when the Queensland government offered Virgin a $200 million lifeline on the condition that other states also contribute and the business maintains its base in Brisbane.
However, the next day, NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet hinted that any contribution from its government would require the airline to move to Sydney, instead.
Then, on Monday morning, Queensland angrily hit back, with State Development Minister Cameron Dick insisting the move would force 1,200 staff to move states to remain in a job.
Minister Dick dramatically told NSW to “back right off” and said, “There is nothing more dangerous than Queenslanders with their backs to the wall.”
On Wednesday, Victoria joined Queensland and NSW by seemingly throwing its hat into the ring, claiming it had considered making a bid and hinting an offer could still happen.
Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas said, “We would expect to see more jobs come to Victoria. We are almost exactly identical in size to Sydney and in practical terms, we don’t have a major domestic carrier based here and that strikes us as a little unreasonable.
Finally, on Thursday, Melbourne Airport’s chief executive joined in, saying that a reborn Virgin Australia should make the Victorian capital the cornerstone of its new network.
Lyell Strambi said, “That doesn’t necessarily have to mean corporate HQ, though it certainly could.”
Strambi added there was an “ongoing conversation” about how to make a Melbourne move happen and claimed the city is underutilised in terms of its value as a strategic hub.
“If a lean, fitter, stronger Virgin wants to rebuild, Melbourne has to be at the heart of the plan,” he said.
The airline group confirmed its collapse on Tuesday morning, after the announcement leaked the previous evening. The business was struggling to service a $4.8 billion debt pile with little revenue coming in.
After the announcement, Deloitte administrator Vaughan Strawbridge and Virgin chief executive Paul Scurrah revealed more than 10 parties have expressed interest in recapitalising the company, which they described as being “very sophisticated parties”.
For more of our in-depth coverage, click the links below:
- Velocity Frequent Flyer points have been paused, but won’t be cancelled;
- Sir Richard Branson hits out at the Australian government as he pays tribute to Virgin staff;
- The TWU and opposition urges the government to make a ‘bold’ move to save the airline;
- Virgin’s administrator, Deloitte, insisted there are ‘several’ interested parties in the running to save the business, thought to include BGH Capital, a private equity operator run by Ben Gray.