Transport minister withholds documents regarding Qatar Airways blocking, cites public interest immunity

Istanbul / Turkey - March 28, 2019: Qatar Airways Airbus A330-300 A7-AEE passenger plane arrival and landing at Istanbul Ataturk Airport

Transport Minister Catherine King has withheld documents from parliament regarding her decision to block Qatar Airways’ bid for additional capacity to Australia, citing public interest immunity.

King responded to a Senate order for the production of documents regarding the decision, saying that disclosing this information could reveal sensitive details about Qatar-Australia relations.

“As the government has made clear, air services agreements are not commercial arrangements but treaty-level agreements between countries,” King said.

“The production of documents falling within the scope of these orders would, or might reasonably be expected to, disclose the nature of bilateral relations with Australia’s foreign partners that we have given undertakings to protect.

“There is a public interest in not disclosing such discussions so the government’s negotiations over air services agreements with a range of countries can continue unimpeded. As such, I claim public interest immunity over documents subject to the orders.”

The transport minister will now go on leave for two weeks, which was organised months ago, following a difficult few weeks of scrutiny over her decision to block the Middle Eastern carrier.

This was inflamed by the Labor Government’s links to Qantas, which has become the subject of a reputational tarnishing following an upcoming ACCC investigation, the early resignation of the airline’s boss Alan Joyce and the illegal sacking of nearly 1700 workers during the pandemic.

Latest News