‘If Virgin dies, every CQ business will suffer’
IF Virgin Australia does not survive and Qantas is left the monopoly airline, every business in Central Queensland will suffer.
That’s the call from Capricorn Enterprise CEO Mary Carroll who on Tuesday produced figures to support her prediction.
“With business movements through Rockhampton airport accounting for 60 per cent of passenger travel on Virgin Australia and 70 to 80 per cent on Qantas (552,623 total passengers in 2018/19), the risk of facing a monopoly airline will have far reaching, and ongoing damaging effects for every single business within our region,” Ms Carroll said.
With COVID-19 continuing to lay waste across the nation, leaving many businesses destroyed, Capricorn Enterprise on Tuesday expressed what Ms Carroll described as “concerned alarm” on behalf of CQ businesses.
She called on the Federal Government, in partnership with states and territories, to provide financial solutions to keep Virgin in the skies.
“Of all the hits that industry has taken so far with the global pandemic, the collapse of Virgin Australia, should they not survive, would be the single biggest blow to the travel and tourism industry,” Ms Carroll said.
“Government’s role is to step in when there is market failure as well as provide critical transport infrastructure, so there is absolutely no question that government support is required to keep the nation’s two significant airlines flying.”
On Tuesday it was revealed that Virgin had officially entered voluntary administration in a bid to resuscitate the troubled airline.
Virgin Australia informed the share market that Deloitte had been appointed as administrators following a board meeting late on Monday.
Keppel MP Brittany Lauga said keeping Virgin in the air was imperative to “future proof” Central Queensland.
“We must have two commercial passenger airlines in Queensland,” she said.
“Airline fares were expensive enough before COVID-19, but a Qantas monopoly will see us return to the bad old days of $700 one-way fares Rockhampton to Brisbane.”
Ms Lauga said a lack of competition would drive airfares even higher and could mean tourists and investors decided not to come to CQ for a holiday or to do business.
On Tuesday Rockhampton Labor MP Barry O’Rourke accused the LNP of abandoning Virgin and CQ tourism.
He said it had become “very clear” the LNP was “not the slightest bit interested” in saving Virgin.
LNP Federal Member for Capricornia Michelle Landry responded by saying the first responsibility to bail out a company lay with its owners and existing shareholders.
“Virgin has very substantial shareholders, including Singapore Airlines and Etihad Airlines who own 20 per cent each,” she said.
“There is 40 per cent or thereabouts that is owned by substantial Chinese investors.
“As the treasurer said, the Federal Government was not going to bail out five large foreign shareholders with deep pockets who together own 90 per cent of this airline.”
Ms Landry said the Federal Government had supported, and would continue to support, the sector through various initiatives which to date had seen more than $1.2 billion committed to maintain operations and support jobs.
“The government’s objective remains committed to two commercially viable airlines operating domestically across Australia,” she said.
“This is important to competition and the Australian economy.
“We will ensure that the ACCC strongly enforces competition laws to ensure that airlines are able to compete effectively as the sector rebuilds.”