‘Profits over life’: Readers blow up over CEO’s border call
Virgin Australia CEO Jayne Hrdlicka's calls for Australia's borders to reopen well before June 2022 even if "some people may die" have sparked outrage from Courier-Mail readers, but also a high level of support from some quarters.
Ms Hrdlicka's comments, which Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday labelled "insensitive", came at a QUT Business Leaders Forum in Brisbane on Monday and instantly triggered a passionate response online, but the topic appears to have polarised many.
Despite acknowledging that "some people may die" as Australia learned to live with COVID, Ms Hrdlicka said it was critical for our health and economy that borders reopened well before June 2022.
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"It will be a difficult thing to do politically because the narrative needs to change. It needs to change so that COVID will become part of the community," she said.
"It will make us sick but won't put us into hospital. Some people may die but it will be way smaller than the flu.
"We're forgetting the fact we have learnt to live with lots of viruses and challenges over the years and the government has to learn to live with this and sooner than June 2022."
But while some readers agreed with the sentiment, many were outraged at the thought of putting business before people's lives.
"I guess it must be easy to say, "maybe a few people will die...", although it could be less easy if it was you or your family doing the dying. I can't see that it's sensible to put making a profit above life itself," one reader, John, said.
Many met Ms Hrdlicka's comments with cynicism, suggesting it was all about Virgin's bottom line.
"Putting the airlines profits over even one life is a demonstration of capitalism gone too far," Matthew wrote.
"Translation - open the borders so that the airline can become profitable again, shareholders can get dividends," another wrote, while a third said: "What else would you expect from an airline CEO with regard to the opening of our international borders. It's self interest over common sense and sensible planning."
Another wrote: "This is about money not about peoples health. How would you rationalise your mind if one of your family members was to die because these actions."
One reader was incensed at the suggestion any deaths were deemed to be acceptable, saying: "Some deaths all for the sake of an airline that in all probability won't be flying in about five years time, even without the effects of Covid. It should not be this CEO's call. Has she no social conscience to go public with such sentiments? She has lost me!"
There were many who agreed with her thinking, however, and suggested that vaccinations should hold the key to reopening our borders, or that we have to accept "some fatalities".
"She is absolutely 100% correct and it is nice to see someone in her position articulate a sensible approach," Chris wrote in a comment liked by 117 other readers.
"Time has come to accept some fatalities. We have lived with a few thousand deaths from the flu for many years . Keep a strict regime around the aged as and informed and get as many people as possible vaccinated with an appropriate vaccine."
"I agree with her," another reader wrote. "I also agree people don't have to have a vaccine if they dont want to... but those people can't hold my life hostage because they don't want to.
"I have had a vaccination and once most people have we should open up.
"Those who don't want a vaccine must accept the risk of choosing not to. I for one am sick of hiding under the doona.
"There is no zero risk option - you either get it and get back to life ... or don't and you take the risk. I am not going to be held hostage by anti vaxcers."
Many readers suggested we need to learn to live with the virus, and that those who didn't want to get vaccinated should accept they will have to stay home.
"The bottom line is, we will have to learn to live with the virus, like we do with the flu," Dave wrote. "Getting vaccinated (as with the flu), is the first step. No vaccination? No overseas travel. Simple."
Another reader, Michael, also supported Ms Hrdlicka's stance, saying: "She is hundered per cent correct. What's the point being vaccinated if can't travel or start living life again."
Prime Minister Scott Morrison labelled Ms Hrdlicka's calls as "insensitive".
Speaking while visiting Brisbane, Mr Morrison said the government would only open up Australia's borders "when it is safe to do so".
The World Health Organisation is anticipating the health impacts of the pandemic will be worse this year than it was in 2020.
There are also outbreaks and lockdowns in countries that previously had the virus under control, including Singapore.
"Australia has avoided 30,000 lives lost, when you compare it to the average fatality rate of like countries in the OECD, 30,000 lives could have otherwise have been lost, had we not had the success we've had as a country, working together," Mr Morrison said.
"And so I think that has to be understood and I you know I regret that those comments were somewhat insensitive.
"Nine hundred and ten Australians have lost their lives. Every single one of those lives was a terrible tragedy. And it doesn't matter how old they were some were younger some were older, that was someone's mom someone's dad someone's aunty, someone's cousin sister, brother, friend."
Asked what the definition of "safe" would be, Mr Morrison said that would be based on the health advice.
Originally published as 'Profits over life': Readers blow up over CEO's border call