Prime Minister Anthony Albanese hits back on meeting with ex-Qantas boss Alan Joyce

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has hit back at criticism over his meeting with former Qantas CEO Alan Joyce just weeks before the airline submitted plans by rival carrier Qatar to boost local flights should be rejected.

Asked about what was discussed at the November 2022 meeting, Mr Albanese called the controversy an “absurdity” and that meeting with the outgoing Qantas chief had been on the record since at least September, 2023.

“I’ve answered questions in parliament where I say that, and I repeat again now – Qatar was not raised, nor were the probably 10 to 15 air service agreements and applications from different airlines at the time.” Mr Albanese said.

“What Alan Joyce came to see me about – just like the heads of BHP, the heads of the Business Council of Australia and a range of others – was industrial relations legislation being discussed at that time.

Mr Albanese said the Coalition had sided with Mr Joyce in defending what the then Qantas boss had called “unfair labour practices” which undermined enterprise bargaining, and that Mr Joyce had also met with independent Senator David Pocock.

The criticism of the meeting followed the release on Wednesday of the Prime Minister’s diary which, while fought against by the Prime Minister’s Office, confirmed the meeting between Mr Joyce and Mr Albanese.

The date of the meeting was previously detailed in documents tabled by Qantas in September to a Senate inquiry into cost of living, and occurred six weeks before the airline’s submission regarding Qatar airlines.

The embattled national carrier submitted in October of that year to the Department of Transport that the Middle Eastern airline’s bid to increase regional services ought to be rejected by the government.

Ultimately, the government decided to reject Qatar Airline’s bid for 28 additional weekly flights into the nation’s major cities. The move came to light until a week later and faced widespread criticism.

Mr Albanese has repeatedly and empathically denied making the decision to block the application nor receiving any lobbying, with the call ultimately falling to Transport Minister Catherine King.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton on Thursday renewed the Coalition’s attacks on the government, calling on the prime minister to come clean on “serious questions” over the refusal of Qatar’s bid.

“I think there are some serious questions for the prime minister to answer here because the decision has had a direct negative effect on the travelling public,” Mr Dutton told Nine Radio.

“It appears [Mr Albanese] has met with the CEO has surely would have lobbied on this issue on behalf of his company, and the prime minister didn’t want us to know anything about it.”

The Minister’s decision to reject the application ultimately sparked significant controversy, fuelling claims that the government was stifling competition in the aviation sector and ensuring Qantas maintained its share of the Australian aviation market.

A Coalition-led Senate inquiry into the matter, which Ms King refused to front, recommended the government immediately review its decision.

In December, the Albanese government approve an application by Turkish Airlines to increase its flight capacity to Australia to 35 flights a week, bolstering connections to Europe.

Read related topics:Anthony AlbaneseQantas

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