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Virgin CEO Hrdlicka accepts border comments were ‘hurtful’

written by Hannah Dowling | May 20, 2021

Virgin Australia chief executive Jayne Hrdlicka said on Thursday she accepts her “some people may die” border comments were hurtful and would “choose different words” if she had her time again.

“We’re forgetting the fact that we’ve learnt how to live with lots of viruses and challenges over the years and we’ve got to learn how to live with this,” she said in a speech at QUT on Monday.

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It marked Hrdlicka’s first comments on the controversy that started on Monday, when she appeared to advocate that the country will have to accept some illness from COVID when borders open, with vaccines unlikely to prove 100 per cent effective.

Following days of “extraordinary” backlash, Hrdlicka addressed her words at a press conference on Thursday morning, joined by Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack.

“I absolutely understand my words, taken in isolation, were hurtful to some people,” she said. “If I had my time again I would choose different words, to make the same point.”

“We are a domestic airline that is committed to keeping the community safe,” she added.

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It came as The Australian obtained a memo sent by Hrdlicka to staff on Wednesday that similarly addressed the fallout.

“I absolutely understand how those comments, taken in isolation, have upset some in the community — and that was never my intention,” Hrdlicka said.

“If I had my time again, I would make my point a bit differently.

“At the end of a Q&A session, a question was put to me about the positions of Victorian chief health officer Brett Sutton and former deputy chief medical officer Dr Nick Coatsworth, on eradication of COVID-19, and once a population is vaccinated, what the next steps around opening borders should be.

“My starting point was — and always will be — that our critical priority should be to protect our vulnerable and get them vaccinated, and then make vaccination available to the rest of our population.

“Only when vulnerable members of our community have access to the vaccines they need, and vaccines are available more broadly, and therefore our hospital system is protected, can we begin to open up and learn to live and work safely with COVID in the community.

“I was not and would never advocate opening borders before we have protected the vulnerable and others who want vaccination.

“Just as we have learned to open our domestic borders and keep the community safe, we can do the same with international borders.

“We need to be open again as a country — it is just a question of doing that in a gradual way that keeps the community safe.”

Hrdlicka seemed to inadvertently start a national conversation on Monday when she was reported to have said opening the country’s borders would mean “some people may die, but it will be way smaller than with the flu”.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison branded the Virgin CEO “insensitive”, arguing he was “not going to take risks with Australians’ lives” and would maintain a regime “that has so far avoided the loss of 30,000 lives”.

PM Morrison said, “I would encourage people to know 910 Australians lost their lives. Every single one of those lives was a terrible tragedy, and it doesn’t matter how old they were.”

Later on Tuesday, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian also appeared to also criticise Hrdlicka’s views by arguing that “no death is acceptable” when it comes to reducing the spread of COVID.

“We’ve worked hard in New South Wales to protect life, to keep community safety and that’s what we will do,” Premier Berejiklian said.

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4 Comments

  • Doug Bright

    says:

    Of course, it doesn’t come as any surprise that those advocating open borders most energetically are those with a serious vested interest in having them open, as their business model relies upon that state of affairs exclusively. Qantas’ Alan Joyce is another one to whom this applies. Planes don’t make money parked up in the desert.

    But it’s disturbing that almost all airlines take this opportunity to effectively enforce so-called “vaccine” uptake as a condition of using their services, and I doubt very much that they study the realities and host of potentially negative generational implications of mandatory adoption of a grossly-undertested and non-FDA approved gene therapy.

    Similarly, iron ore companies insist we keep doing business with their principal customer, China (and we remain thankful for the world’s best financial condition as a result of it) when, in almost every other respect, it really sticks in our craw supplying them with anything, as China is not only seriously on-the-nose for its part in the dissemination of the global bug that has transformed almost everything about our lives for an unforeseeable future, but still refuses to accept responsibility for it and even stonewalls on any recommended investigations.

  • Meryl

    says:

    Ya think, Jayne?
    Maybe you should get someone else in your company to write your press releases’, so you don’t come across as a hard-nosed, uncaring so & so.
    As a result of what you said, there’d be many folk who won’t book on Virgin, now, or ever.
    This is one reason why what you say has a big impact on your financial bottom line.

  • Td

    says:

    Everyone is entitled to a view and everyone has a view but when one oversteps the boundary in order to highlight their status to protect their position or increase revenue , which is the aim of most CEOs, then they are fair game to be put back in the box they came out of. No one is indispensable.
    Reference the borders, wound you let someone come into your home with Covid even though they have been vaccinated? The same answer applies to workplaces and entry into Australia.

  • Pete

    says:

    Oh, dear… politicians weeping crocodile tears.

    Hrdlicka is correct, of course. Unless Australia adopts the same border control policies as North Korea, we are going to have community outbreaks again, and as a result of those outbreaks some people may die. Death is a much more likely outcome if one is not immunised, so go and get vaccinated TODAY to protect yourself and your loved-ones.

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