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‘Ridiculous farce’: King slams Qatar Airways Senate inquiry

written by Jake Nelson | October 16, 2023

Craig Murray shot this Qatar Airways A350-1000.

Transport Minister Catherine King is pushing back against recommendations by a Senate inquiry to review the government’s decision to block additional flights by Qatar Airways.

Speaking in the regional NSW seat of Eden-Monaro on Monday, Minister King branded the inquiry a “ridiculous farce”, seeming to rule out revisiting the decision and pointing out that the previous Coalition government had also not increased Qatar’s access.

The formally titled Select Committee on Commonwealth Bilateral Air Service Agreements, chaired by Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie, was announced to allow senators to challenge high-profile figures involved in the federal government’s Qatar decision.

“A very politicised Senate Inquiry is asking the Australian Government to do something the previous government was unable and unwilling to do in its nine long years in office. It did not increase Qatar Airlines’ access to Australia by 28 flights. It did not fix the slot system in Sydney; it did not fix all of the consumer issues when it came to airlines in this country,” said Minister King.

“We have a Green Paper that we put out, we spent quite some time putting together, that is focused on how we get aviation back up and running properly in this country in a way that benefits consumers, benefits competition.


“I’m not going to be listening to a highly‑politicised Senate Inquiry that just saw, frankly, a ridiculous farce of Bridget McKenzie running around the country where there were empty chairs, you know, bringing people over to Western Australia, and all of the evidence has been heard from over here in the country, and so if you read the dissenting report, that’s the Government’s response.”

In its most dramatic moment, Virgin Australia’s CEO told the inquiry she believed the federal government was originally planning to grant the extra services – but changed its mind after then Qantas CEO Alan Joyce told the Transport Minister he was “not happy” about the decision.

Jayne Hrdlicka said Minister King personally told her about the then-Qantas CEO’s views in January and added he had requested a meeting to discuss the decision.

The federal government then announced in July it was denying the Middle Eastern airline the right to increase its frequency into Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth from the current 28 flights per week.

Minister King later stressed that no single factor spurred the decision, which she has repeatedly said was made according to the national interest.

Other recommendations in the committee’s final report called for the government to continue to allow the ACCC to monitor the aviation industry with quarterly reports and update controversial airport slot rules.

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