Virgin in secret talks with China

March 22, 2019

Virgin Australia is in advanced secretive negotiations with two Chinese conglomerates to build the first flight training school to be “certified” by the Chinese Communist Party and which would be one of the nation’s biggest, able to simultaneously train up to 500 pilots.

This is further evidence of why a royal commission needs to be called into Chinese Communist Party influence in Australia.

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The Australian reports, the project, which is aimed at “Chinese high school graduates and university graduates” was actually “officially launched” exclusively to Chinese language media at a formal ceremony — attended by Virgin — in Sydney more than six months ago.

The project, proposed to be built at the Australian Air Force’s former national pilot training centre at Tamworth NSW, is to be created and co-operated by China’s Hainan Airlines and Winbright Aviation, controlled by major Chinese group Beijing Winbright Investment Co.

Virgin announced plans for a new flight school in Tamworth in October last year, but made no mention of its partners in the proposed facility, who it can now be revealed also include the University of NSW China Association and “100% online” education group Southern Cross University.

Despite Virgin having made no announcements about the major involvement of Hainan and Winbright, those two Chinese companies launched the pilot training project at a ceremony in Sydney on August 16 last year, with Virgin Australia’s group chief adviser Peter Cai giving a speech at the event.

A statement about the launch on Winbright Aviation’s website, which appears to have been translated into English, says the proposed mega-facility is “aimed at Chinese high school graduates and undergraduate students” and is the “only CAAC-certified airline pilot training program in Australia”.

CAAC is China’s aviation regulator, the Civil Aviation Administration of China.

Repeated calls to the Australian offices of Hainan Airlines and Winbright Aviation either rang out or went to voicemail.

China’s HNA Group, which owns Hainan Airlines, owns a 19 per cent state in Virgin Australia, which is just below the 20 per cent threshold at which it must legally launch takeover notices with regulators.

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Royal Commission on China needed

Revelations on the ABC's 4 Corners program show there are serious questions to be answered about the Chinese Community Party's influence in Australian politics. We cannot trust major parties to review their own conduct. We...

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