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Senate inquiry demands extension to question Joyce

written by Adam Thorn | October 9, 2023

Qantas Group chief executive Alan Joyce confirms the business will make 6,000 jobs redundant – or 20 per cent of its workforce.

The Senate committee that investigated the Qatar flights controversy has asked for an extension so it can interview former Qantas CEO Alan Joyce.

The recommendation was among ten made by the group, which also called on the government to “immediately review” the decision to deny the Middle Eastern airline the right to increase its services into Australia.

However, Transport Minister Catherine King branded the inquiry, chaired by Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie, a “political stunt”, while the Labor senators on the panel argued it had “obvious bias”.

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

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 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”.

Hrdlicka, however, appeared to strongly hint that she believed Alan Joyce’s views may have swayed her decision. She said she first met with King in January, where she said she was led to believe Qatar, a codeshare partner of Virgin, would be granted the flights.

“Based on this conversation, I felt comfortable that Qatar would be granted additional air rights. I was so sufficiently comfortable that I did not raise [the issue] with the prime minister when I saw him at the Australian Open in January as part of my responsibilities as the chair of Tennis Australia,” Hrdlicka said.

She later said that the Minister also revealed that Alan Joyce “had heard that her department was recommending negotiations with Qatar should commence, and he was not happy and had asked to speak with her.”

It was reported Joyce failed to appear as he was at home in Ireland to be with his mother, who is seriously ill.

Other recommendations in Monday’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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Comment (1)

  • This Qatar issue is getting very tiring! It doesn’t matter if that airline is allowed a total of 1 return flight each day to and from each mainland capital because the major negative effect will unfortunately be on the likes of Emirates and Etihad; Qantas hasn’t got the fleet numbers or aircraft type to go anyway near competing and, with respect and I am sad to say that in the main their in cabin staffing, knowledge, understanding and application of service doesn’t go anywhere near their middle eastern counterparts or even the S.E. Asian operators too. It gives me no pleasure to say these things! No change equals more of the same.

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