Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has defended his government’s handling of the aviation industry, including Qantas and Qatar Airways.
In a fiery Question Time on Monday, the PM hit back against suggestions from the Opposition that his government is too cosy with the Flying Kangaroo and said Transport Minister Catherine King’s blocking of additional Qatar Airways flights was a “status-quo, nothing decision”.
In response to a question by Melissa Price, MP for Durack, on whether Joyce had lobbied him on the Qatar decision at the Lodge, Kirribilli House or his private plane, the PM countered that the question should be directed to his predecessor Scott Morrison, as Joyce “has never been at Kirribilli or the Lodge on [PM Albanese’s] watch, not once”.
“The last time he was there, Scott Morrison was the Prime Minister of Australia. The Leader of the Opposition went on 2GB last week and just asserted this to be a fact. It is a lie. It was a lie from the Leader of the Opposition, and it is typical of what they do. They want to just make anything up,” he said.
“They sided with Qantas when it grounded its fleet in 2011 and locked out its workforce. We stood up for the workforce. They sided with Qantas when its major competitor Virgin collapsed into administration in 2020. They sided with Qantas when it sacked and outsourced thousands of its workforce.
“They delivered $2.7 billion in taxpayer support, including almost $900 million in JobKeeper, without putting in place any mechanism to get funding back.”
The PM also said Minister King’s move to block the Qatar expansion simply maintained the existing air rights arrangement, dismissing questions about why he had not been informed as soon as the Minister had made the decision.
“The idea that when I’m at a NATO summit the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government thinks she’ll ring me up or contact me to tell me that nothing is happening is just bizarre,” he said.
“I can also confirm the Minister for the Environment and Water didn’t ring me up to tell me that nothing was happening, the Treasurer didn’t ring me up to tell me that nothing was happening, the Minister for Education didn’t ring me up to tell me that nothing was happening and the Minister for Climate Change and Energy didn’t ring me up to tell me that he was still sticking to net zero by 2050.
“The idea that this was front and centre while I was at a NATO summit discussing a land war in Europe with all of the global inflationary consequences that were going on is quite frankly absurd.”
A question by Bradfield MP Paul Fletcher intimating that the Qatar decision was made to gain Qantas’s support for the Voice to Parliament referendum was similarly rubbished, with the PM saying “every major business in Australia” is supporting the Yes side.
“Woolworths, Coles, Telstra, BHP, Rio Tinto, the Business Council of Australia, the Catholic Church, the Imams Council, the Australian Football League, the National Rugby League, Rugby Australia and Netball Australia are all supporting the ‘yes’ campaign in this referendum,” he said.
“This referendum has been a long time coming; planes were painted with the ‘R’ for ‘recognise’ more than a decade ago, just as planes were painted, like the Wunala Dreaming, to pay respect to Indigenous Australians a long time ago.”
Qatar rival Emirates on Tuesday gave the government a boost by switching all Sydney services to A380s, bolstering the argument that Qatar could increase capacity by simply flying larger planes into Australia.