Alan Joyce could face the prospect of jail time if he fails to front a Senate inquiry into the blocking of extra flights from Qatar.
The former Qantas chief has been warned he will need to face the inquiry when he returns to Australia from a European vacation.
Coalition senator Bridget McKenzie warned Mr Joyce that he could face a “whole raft of processes” if he refuses to answer questions about the government’s decision to block a bid from Qatar Airways to introduce more flight into major Australian cities.
Mr Joyce has key information from conversations with prime minister Anthony Albanese and transport minister Catherine King about the decision.
“He is the only one that can go to conversations that he’s informally had with his bromance partner, the prime minister, Anthony Albanese and indeed Minister King,” Senator McKenzie told reporters on Thursday.
“There is a process within the standing orders and the procedures of the Senate, which will eventually make it very hard for former CEO Joyce to not appear.”
Senator McKenzie warned a person had been jailed in the 1950s for ignoring a summons order, but said she hoped “we don’t get there”.
Mr Joyce had told the inquiry that he could not attend either in person or via video link due to personal obligations while he was travelling overseas.
Meanwhile, Virgin Australia chief executive Jayne Hrdlicka fronted the inquiry on Wednesday telling senators that she had spoken with the transport minister about the Qatari bid for “five minutes at best” during a one-hour meeting.
She said Ms King had told her Joyce was “not happy” about the Qatari bid and was seeking a meeting.
“Nonetheless, I was left with a very clear impression that the decision to proceed was very compelling and imminent. Based on this conversation, I felt comfortable that Qatar would be granted additional air rights,” Hrdlicka said.
Senator McKenzie also formally invited Ms King to front the inquiry.