Joyce, Andrews meet over plan for Qantas to call Melbourne home

Qantas boss Alan Joyce and Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews have met to discuss moving the airline's headquarters from Sydney to Melbourne, potentially bringing 5000 jobs to the state as it starts its economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Qantas launched a review of its property footprint in September and sparked a bidding war between state governments for financial incentives to either relocate its head offices or keep it in Mascot near Sydney Airport.

The airline is looking to move its head office. Credit:

Mr Joyce travelled to Melbourne on Wednesday – two days after the border with NSW reopened – to meet the Victorian premier to discuss a relocation of Qantas' head office staff, according to sources familiar with the meeting. The pair also discussed restarting Victoria's tourism sector and how to increase flights in and out of the state, the sources said.

Qantas employs around 5000 staff in Sydney that could potentially shift to Melbourne. However, Victoria may lose around 1000 jobs if Qantas decides to shut the Collingwood office of its budget arm Jetstar and move those roles to a consolidated "super campus" in another state.

Mr Joyce also toured Melbourne Airport on Wednesday to scout out potential locations for Qantas' operations. Qantas has said it is looking to move its Brisbane-based heavy aircraft maintenance facilities, which employ 750 workers, as well as its flight training simulators currently based in Sydney and Melbourne.

Mr Andrews, whose government this week unveiled a $49 billion budget spending spree to create 400,000 jobs over the next five years and drag it out of its COVID-19 recession, said in September he would pitch aggressively for Qantas to call Victoria home.

Dan Andrews said in September he was keen to get Qantas to call Victoria home.Credit:Paul Jeffers

"We think that we have a very attractive offer to make and we'll work through that to try and have as many jobs as we possibly can in our city and state," Mr Andrews said at the time, adding his proposal would cover both office and engineering jobs.

It is not clear whether Victoria has made a formal proposal to Qantas nor what the scope of any such proposal is. A spokesman for Mr Andrews did not comment further before deadline on Thursday.

Melbourne Airport CEO Lyell Strambi said he was proud to be contributing to Victoria’s efforts to lure Qantas south, with his airport estate being more than six times the size of Melbourne’s CBD and already home to commercial offices, hotels and logistics providers.

“We think there's a really strong proposition that would be incredibly hard to match anywhere else,” Mr Strambi said. “The most recent commitments to airport rail underscore just how highly Victoria values aviation.”

Qantas is also talking to Queensland, South Australia and NSW sate governments about possible incentives packages. The airline has flagged one option could be to consolidate its office, training and engineering facilities at the new Western Sydney Airport, due to open in 2026.

The airline had expected to conclude its property review by the end of this year, but is now likely to announce a decision in early 2021.

Qantas' decision to review its office footprint was prompted by the need to cut costs in response to the COVID-19 crisis, which has devastated airlines globally and seen the Australian carrier announce around 8000 redundancies, or close to a third of its workforce.

State government incentives to lure employment to the state is not uncommon. Victoria gave retailer David Jones a taxpayer handout to move 820 head office jobs from Sydney to Melbourne in 2016, while a bidding war for Virgin Australia's head office after it went into administration in April ended with Queensland making a $200 million investment to keep it based in Brisbane.

The Queensland government also gave Qantas financial support two years ago to build its new $35 million flight school in Toowoomba.

Meanwhile, NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said in September that the state would offer "every assistance to Qantas so they can keep as many of their employees as possible in NSW".

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