‘Never recover’: Beattie’s grim warning for economy
FORMER premier Peter Beattie says domestic tourism in Queensland will "fall by the wayside'' if Virgin Australia collapses and Qantas assumes a monopoly.
"Make no mistake, places like the Gold Coast, Cairns and Whitsundays will never recover unless there's a (aviation) duopoly,'' he said.
"Australia needs two airlines. I know it's tricky from a government perspective, especially at Commonwealth level, but I'm urging every Queenslander to write to their local federal MP and ask them to ensure Virgin does not fold.
"Regional tourism will go by the wayside if they fail.''
It was the Beattie Government that lured Virgin's then major shareholder, Richard Branson, to base itself in Queensland.
As part of the deal, Mr Branson pledged to Mr Beattie that he would service regional Queensland towns with populations over 50,000 people.
"Branson was true to his word and he did that,'' said Mr Beattie.
"This is also about jobs. There are thousands of jobs at stake here for Queenslanders.
"We all know that if Virgin goes, and look I have nothing against Qantas because they are a business and they operate that way, airfares will go up, especially in places like Cairns and the Gold Coast and particularly the Whitsundays.
"That's just the way it is. Market forces.
"But the outcome of something like that is you will see less people travelling because the costs become prohibitive.
"That's not good for Queensland. That's not good for tourism. It's not good for Australia.''
Mr Beattie's comments were backed by Gold Coast Tourism chairman Paul Donovan, who said Virgin was the backbone of Queensland regional tourism.
"Virgin flies just about everywhere in Queensland and from a Gold Coast perspective, it supplies a significant percentage of the flights in and out of the Gold Coast airport,'' he said.
"To lose Virgin would be catastrophic. We need all the ducks lined up to get through this coronavirus crisis and losing Virgin would leave a massive gap in any rescue plan."
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The Queensland Government is moving towards a $200 million rescue bid for Virgin, believing other states will also follow suit to help save the embattled airline.
The offer is conditional upon Virgin remaining based in Queensland, where it employs 5500 staff.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been noncommittal about a Commonwealth bailout package for Virgin, which is owned by a number of overseas entities.
The Commonwealth has offered up $165 million to ensure both Qantas and Virgin maintain regional and bush routes.
There is renewed speculation that a Chinese airline is in takeover talks with Virgin.
Originally published as 'Never recover': Beattie's grim warning