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Top officials must declare Chairman’s Lounge access

written by Adam Thorn | October 23, 2023

Senior public servants will now have to declare their membership of the Qantas Chairman’s Lounge following a change in the official guidance.

Previously, the broader rules asked for agency heads to disclose gifts or benefits valued at more than $100.

The new advice, released by the Australian Public Service Commission on Monday, states, “In circumstances where agency heads are gifted airline lounge memberships (including those which are invitation-only), these must be recorded in their agency’s gifts and benefits register annually or when circumstances change, such as a new or cancelled membership.”

The guidance significantly applies to all airlines that offer invitation-only access to exclusive lounges.


It follows a recent row over the ethics of invite-only lounges, which has seen Qantas face accusations it’s gaining favour by offering access to the prestigious areas.

The Flying Kangaroo previously revealed access is extended to “secretaries and deputy secretaries of commonwealth departments, the chairs, chief commissioners and CEOs of key agencies and senior members of the military”.

The tightening of the rules comes after it was revealed that ex-Qantas CEO Alan Joyce would not front another Senate inquiry into the decision by the government to deny Qatar extra flights into Australia.

Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie, who chaired the inquiry, moved last week to extend it so witnesses, including Joyce and Transport Minister Catherine King, could be called. The motion was defeated 34–31, however, as the Greens and independent David Pocock sided with the government against it.

The inquiry, which wrapped up earlier this month, was announced to allow senators to challenge high-profile figures involved in the federal government’s Qatar decision, but recommended in its final report an extension so Joyce could be questioned about his role in the blocking of extra flights by the Middle Eastern carrier into Australia’s major airports.

In a blistering statement, Senator McKenzie accused the government of running a “cover-up” on behalf of Joyce, also taking to social media to decry what she says is a “protection racket” for Qantas.

“This inquiry was first set up to find out the real reason why the Albanese Government has contributed to keeping the cost of airfares high by blocking Qatar Airways’ request for additional flights, and while the inquiry has made serious recommendations to make our aviation industry more competitive, this question still hasn’t been answered,” she said.

“Mr Joyce is one of only three people who know why Qantas has received preferential treatment at the hands of the Albanese Government and now we will not be able to bring him before the Senate Committee to answer legitimate and serious questions about his personal and political relationship with the Prime Minister.”

Minister King earlier slammed the inquiry as a “ridiculous farce” and seemed to rule out a review of the decision to block extra Qatar flights.

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