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Labor state government criticises Qatar decision

written by Adam Thorn | September 4, 2023

Victor Pody shot this Qatar Airways 777-300.

Queensland’s Labor government has said it would approve extra flights for Qatar – contradicting the decision made by his party at federal level.

Acting Premier Steven Miles added his government would like to see “as many flights as possible” because passengers arriving in his state would create “jobs and prosperity”.

It comes after Transport Minister Catherine King blocked Qatar Airways from launching an additional 28 additional flights into Australia each week.

Critics have argued the decision benefits rival Qantas and hurts Virgin Australia, a close codeshare party of the overseas carrier.

The situation is particularly complicated because the state of Queensland itself owns 2-3 per cent of Virgin Australia through its investment arm QIC.


Miles rebuke follows Labor national president Wayne Swan arguing the decision to block the flights should be reconsidered given the “revelations” surrounding a separate ACCC lawsuit against the Flying Kangaroo.

“We have price gouging and deceptive conduct and real questions to be answered by Qantas, and in particular the Qantas board, which has appeared to be arrogant and very much in breach of the law,” he said.

Opposition leader Peter Dutton also branded the intervention “unconscionable”.

“It means that people – travellers, Australians – who want to go and see family or go for a holiday overseas are literally paying thousands of dollars more for their airline ticket and I think that’s unconscionable,” Dutton said.

Virgin Australia itself has repeatedly criticised the decision, with the carrier’s chief corporate affairs & sustainability officer, Christian Bennett, saying in a statement that allowing extra Qatar flights would bring down airfares while blocking them advantaged the Flying Kangaroo at Virgin’s expense.

“Any suggestion that denying Qatar additional flights was designed to protect Qantas’ medium-to-long-term sustainability neglects the fact that blocking Qatar damages the domestic and international competitive position of Virgin Australia in favour of Qantas.

“Virgin Australia delivers great value and great choice to Australian consumers every day. It is the main source of competition to the Qantas Group, and that task is challenging enough without Qantas having public policy designed for its benefit.”

PM Anthony Albanese has doubled down on the decision, arguing there is “nothing unusual” about it.

In a doorstop interview, the Prime Minister implied he would not be reviewing the decision not to expand Qatar’s air rights and echoed comments made by Qantas CEO Alan Joyce at a Senate committee hearing that Qatar did not require more frequency to increase capacity.

“Qatar can fly into Adelaide, as many planes as they like, as big as they like. They can fly in other planes, which are bigger planes, that bring in more people,” the PM said.

“There is nothing unusual about a nation-state not having access to unlimited flights wherever they like to go, whenever they like to go. Australia has exactly the same situation where Australian airlines are restricted from where they fly into. The former government made a very similar decision.”

The Prime Minister stressed that the decision belonged to Transport Minister Catherine King and that decisions like this are made “all the time”.

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