Transcript Interview with Paul Murray Live on Sky News

PAUL MURRAY:

I’m pleased to say that we’ve got the Deputy Prime Minister and Transport Minister Michael McCormack joining us right now from Canberra. Deputy Prime Minister thank you so much for joining us.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

That’s a pleasure Paul.

PAUL MURRAY:

Now I couldn’t be a bigger fan of Virgin, I know I don’t have to declare it but I do say it openly, got a hundred thousand points with them, have a great experience every time I fly. But we are in this scenario where I think the Government did the right thing by not serving up money before voluntary administration. But now that it is in voluntary administration, what role, if any, does the Government play in guaranteeing that Virgin stays in the air?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Well Nicholas Moore has been appointed by the Government. He will liaise with the administrators and of course Deloitte has been called in to look through the books, to go and run the ruler over the books and see how we can get Virgin through, how they can get themselves through and he’ll be reporting back to Treasury and Treasury, of course, will report to Government. We want to see two commercially viable airlines through COVID-19 and Paul Scurrah, the CEO of Virgin, announcing the voluntary administration earlier this week said that now that they are in that position he felt that that could well happen. He says that they will come out of this stronger. Yes they will restructure, yes they will recapitalise, refinance and they will come out the other side a leaner, stronger company. That’s important I think for their 10,000 employees, that’s important for customers Australia over. They want competition in the airline sector and I’m sure that through this process that’s what’s going to happen.

PAUL MURRAY:

What do you say to their 10 per cent owner, Richard Branson, who decided to have a bit of a tee-off because there was lack of taxpayer funded money that went into a business, that of course, is majority owned by airlines that are run by the Governments of Abu Dhabi or Singapore, that he thought it was the Australian Government that needed to find more money?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Well, he’s built his wealth and built his brand around the Virgin name, the Virgin label and he should dig deep, he should dig deep. And not only he, but Etihad, Singapore Airlines, the Chinese consortia. It was almost entirely foreign owned and the Australian taxpayers have a right to think, that particularly Sir Richard Branson, who started the company, that he should perhaps look at his Caribbean island and you know, perhaps mortgage it to ensure that not only Virgin Australia but Virgin Atlantic and the Virgin brand remains strong and those people keep their jobs.

PAUL MURRAY:

Now to make sure that those people keep their jobs there’s all sorts of variables, apparently 10 people lining up to potentially purchase them. I notice that one of them is Macquarie Bank. Now this is interesting to me because Macquarie Bank also owns most of the airports in Australia, certainly the metropolitan ones. Would you have a problem with the same people who own the airport owning the airline?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Well, it’s probably too early to speculate yet Paul, because, yes you’re right, there are about 10 potential investors, that could become 15, it could become five next week. I know that there’s the first meeting of the creditors is going to be held next week. But there will be a lot to say, there will be a lot play out before we finally see who’s actually going to emerge as a potential buyer of Virgin, a potential owner of Virgin. We’ll see what transpires over coming weeks, perhaps even months and I’m sure Virgin will come out stronger at the end of it.

PAUL MURRAY:

Alright two quick ones. Swissport, this is the company that employs a few thousand people, a lot of them in regional airports as the ground crew, as the baggage handlers. I know that there’s been plenty of discussion about it this week about their financial troubles. Are they one of the many long list of companies with the hand out right now and if so, is it a hand that will be returned by the Government?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

The aviation sector, Paul, as you know, has been hit very, very hard by COVID-19. Certainly, Swissport, 3,200 employees, they do a lot of the baggage handling, they and a couple of other companies, right across Australia and as you mentioned in the regions. They sent me a letter earlier this week, I’m having a teleconference with them tomorrow. I’ll hear what they have to say. Anything that we’ve done in this space, Paul, has been sector wide. Any of the assistance that we’ve provided and so far it totals around $1.28 billion dollars as the Federal Government assistance to the aviation industry has been sector wide. I think that’s important to note. I’ll hear what they have to say tomorrow and we’ll go from there.

PAUL MURRAY:

Last question, there are, as you know, bugger all cases of coronavirus in regional Australia. There have been one or two deaths particularly focussed around the Ruby Princess in Toowoomba. Are you feeding into the National Cabinet process what regional Australia wants? Because you can understand the frustration that might be building say in your part of the world in Wagga Wagga, or Tamworth, or Townsville or further north, further west, that there’s been no problem, it’s hard to imagine there will be a problem, yet they’re still in lockdown. 

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

There has been a death on the north coast, there’s been one in Orange, there’s been one at Albury. It’s one in, all in Paul, I’ve said that all along. We need to make sure we don’t have any outbreaks. Of course, we saw those outbreaks in Burnie. We need to know that if there are going to be outbreaks, of course we’ve got the ICU facilities, we’ve got the frontline medical staff, they’re absolutely fantastic of course in regional areas, but we need to make sure that we keep our areas safe. Yes, there hasn’t been too many cases, too many outbreaks and that’s been good. And yes people can shrug their shoulders in the regions and say well why can’t our pubs be open, why can’t we be playing sport. But it is one in, all in. It only takes one person to come to a regional area, they could potentially, as Professor Brendan Murphy has said over and over again, transmit the virus to up to 400 other people. So if it’s good enough for the metropolitan areas to be shut down and Bondi Beach to be closed etc then it has to be good enough for Wagga Wagga and Tamworth as you mention and I’ll think that we’ll hold true to what the Chief Medical Officer and his cohorts say. We’ve taken the medical advice all the way through and we will continue to follow it.

PAUL MURRAY:

Michael, all the best.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Paul I just wanted to say; a very sad day for the Victoria Police. That state, our nation is really hurting after what happened last night. No one could imagine the heartbreak and the heartache of those families who’ve lost loved ones in that tragic accident and I know you like everybody else will be almost numb tonight. Absolutely dreadful and our hearts go out to those officers and their families.

PAUL MURRAY:

Absolutely sir, thank you very much for making those comments.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Thanks Paul.

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