Transcript Sunrise Interview with Sam Armytage

SAM ARMYTAGE

Around 19 bidders are said to be circling Virgin Australia which went into voluntary administration last month owing approximately $7 billion. Offers are due this Friday and for more, we're joined by the Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack. Good morning to you.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK 

Good morning, Sam.

SAM ARMYTAGE

Now, you've previously defended the Federal Government's decision not to bail out the airline. So what do you think of this move by the State Government of Queensland?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK 

Well, I've said all along Sam, that it needs to be a market-led solution and the Queensland Government – well, they are welcome to make a bid but I think it should be a market-led solution, not a government-led solution.

SAM ARMYTAGE

Okay, so there are 19 parties looking at Virgin’s books –

MICHAEL MCCORMACK 

At the moment, so preliminary bids, as you say, close tomorrow and who knows there might be even more potential bidders from the market that come over the next 24 to 48 hours.

SAM ARMYTAGE

So you think at the last minute bidders might swoop in? Excuse the pun.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK 

Well, often this happens Sam, you know, with any type of auction or real estate auction, it's often the serious investors putting their hands up at the last moment. We’ll wait and see but I do think there needs to be a market-led solution. We want two commercially viable airlines to come out of this process. It's been so hard on the aviation industry and that's why we've invested $1.28 billion to make sure that we do get two commercially viable airlines coming out of COVID-19 and to make sure that our regional air sector is what it needs to be.

SAM ARMYTAGE

Would you like it to be an Australian based entity that wins that bid tomorrow or do you not mind and just somebody picks up the reins with Virgin?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK 

I want to see two commercially viable airlines coming out of this and look, we’re making sure that we've got Nicholas Moore in there and Deloitte, of course, as the voluntary administrators. We want to make sure that the process works. That's what we've said all the way through, market-led solution, two viable airlines coming out of it – that's my focus.

SAM ARMYTAGE

Your colleague in Cabinet, Peter Dutton, has launched a scathing attack on Queensland – on the Premier – for making this move saying that she leads a corrupt and chaotic government and that Queensland can't afford this bid. But, Queensland's newly anointed Treasurer, who has only been in the job for a few days, has said that the Home Affairs Minister should stick to cruise ships, what do you think of all that?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK 

Well, I’ll let them have their little discussions between themselves. As the portfolio Minister, I'll just say we've got 24 or so hours left before those preliminary bids can go in. Let's see what happens. I want to see two commercially viable airlines, I think that's so important for commuters and so important for the thousands of workers that Virgin employs. I’m, at the moment, hand signing hundreds if not thousands of letters back to those concerned workers. They want to see of course, their own company up and back in the skies and we all want to see that.

SAM ARMYTAGE

Absolutely. If you were a betting man, Michael McCormack, what would you put your money on happening tomorrow? Will the Queensland Government join with one of the major consortiums perhaps?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK 

Well, let’s wait and see. In fact, I wouldn't be betting on that. I think there's probably far more viable horses running around Randwick and Flemington tracks than betting on that at the moment, Sam.

SAM ARMYTAGE

Okay, I like a good gambling analogy, Michael McCormack, thank you for your time today.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK 

Thanks Sam, all the best.

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