Aaron Bunch Journalist with Australian Associated Press | Collection of published work | + 61 484 008 119 | abunch@aap.com.au

Aaron Bunch
Queensland offers $200m bailout to Virgin

Cash-strapped airline Virgin Australia has been offered a $200 million lifeline by the Queensland government but it comes with strings attached.

April 18, 2020

The Queensland government has offered $200 million to help rescue Virgin Australia, as the cash-strapped airline struggles to survive.

The airline suspended trading in its shares to continue talks on financial aid and restructuring alternatives to help it weather the coronavirus downturn.

It has been unsuccessful in its request to the Australian government for $1.4 billion in loans.

Queensland State Development Minister Cameron Dick says it is imperative Australia has two airlines to support tourism, jobs and regional investment.

“If we’re going to get through this pandemic with two national airlines … then all governments need to come together to ensure that is the case,” he told reporters on Saturday.

“Queensland can’t do this on its own. This is a national airline weathering a national crisis and it needs a national response which is why we’re asking the Australian government to take the lead on this.”

Mr Dick said Queensland’s support was conditional on debt restructuring, shareholders and bondholders doing their bit.

The airline’s headquarters would also need to remain in Brisbane and regional flights would need to continue.

Asked about propping up an airline that could be bought-out by a foreign company, Mr Dick said it was a risk but without two airlines, airfares and freight costs in Australia would rise.

“We want to keep the air fair. We know on routes where there is only a single carrier, the cost of flights can be 20 per cent to 25 per cent more,” he said.

Coalition MP Andrew Laming says the federal government will not assist the airline without guarantees.

“We can’t be distributing taxpayers’ money purely on the whim of what is an ambit claim for over $1 billion unless it makes a difference,” he told ABC News.

“The ultimate solution is to get the economy rolling again.”

Federal opposition frontbencher Jason Clare called on the Morrison government to help Virgin.

“We need two airlines. If we don’t have two, we’ll have fewer flights and flights will cost more. It won’t mean just 15,000 Aussies losing their jobs, but the task of crawling out of the crater created by the coronavirus will become harder,” he said.

Earlier, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said there will be no early end to Queensland’s tough lockdown restrictions, which authorities fear could lead to a rapid spike in COVID-19 infections.

“This is a marathon. We do not want to lift the restrictions and see a spike in the infection rate,” Ms Palaszczuk said on Friday.

“What we need to be very careful about here. We do not want to see those massive spikes that we saw in European countries and the United States.

The state’s infection rate continues to creep upward with six people testing positive on Friday. The total now stands at 1007 with 19 people in hospital and 11 in intensive care, while the death toll remains at five.

Border checkpoints remain in place but the premier warned they could be tightened even further.

Queensland has ramped up its testing regime, carrying out 2503 tests in the past 24 hours – more than half of the 4884 tests carried out nationwide.

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