Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has lashed out at the Queensland government’s decision to bid for Virgin Australia, saying a successful bid would put the airline “back on the market in six months”.
On Wednesday night, Minister Dutton posted a controversial update to his Twitter account, calling the bid “laughable”.
Premier Palaszczuk has almost bankrupted Queensland, and now in the middle of a crisis they want to buy an airline. It is laughable. She “leads” a government which is corrupt and chaotic.
— Peter Dutton (@PeterDutton_MP) May 13, 2020
Speaking to host Ray Hadley on 2GB radio Thursday morning, Minister Dutton doubled down on his comments, labelling the plans a “political stunt” in the lead up to the state election in October. He also said that the government could potentially wind up spending millions of dollars, despite supposedly being aware that it does not have a realistic chance of being successful in its bid.
“Don’t forget, that Premier [Annastacia] Palaszczuk… every credit card that she has is already maxed out,” he said. “They don’t have one dollar in the bank … They’re marching towards $100 billion of debt … and they’re now talking about buying an airline, it just doesn’t make any sense.”
The state’s Treasurer and Minister for Infrastructure Cameron Dick previously said that the financial package could take the form of a direct equity stake, a loan, guarantee or other financial incentives. State-owned funds management group Queensland Investment Corporation has since been appointed to oversee the bid.
“This is a competitive space, but Queensland is a serious contender and our discussions with the administrators have been making progress,” Minister Dick said.
The minister is part of the cabinet team spearheading the bid, dubbed “Project Maroon” by Queensland officials, and came out in defence against Minister Dutton’s comments on Twitter.
Look mate, just stick to cruise ships … https://t.co/Cb4AArVokL
— Cameron Dick (@camerondickqld) May 13, 2020
Minister Dick’s comments seem to reference Minister Dutton’s handling of the Ruby Princess crisis, which sparked 22 coronavirus-related fatalities, hundreds of cases, and a state inquiry into the matter.
Virgin Australia had initially hoped to cut a deal with the federal government, asking them for a bailout package worth approximately $1.4 billion, but this proposal was rejected publicly by Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.