King refuses to provide Qatar Airways documents citing public interest immunity

A day after requesting additional time to respond to requests to provide more information to the senate regarding the decision to block Qatar Airways from an additional flights into Australia, Transport Minister Catherine King has refused to provide key documents citing public interest immunity.

King’s decision came in the form of a letter late on Thursday that claimed the decision to grant Qatar additional landing rights as part of a bilateral agreement, and details regarding meetings with Qantas and other airlines, came under public interest immunity.

It means King will avoid answering questions in parliament about the controversial call that heavily favours Qantas as the next sitting does not occur until 16 Oct.

The AFR reported King’s letter said that bilateral air rights agreements were not commercial arrangements but treaty-level agreements between countries and therefore making those documents public would expose the nature of sensitive bilateral agreements.

Meanwhile the furor around the Qantas/Qatar decision hasn’t escaped the CAPA APAC Aviation Summit, currently taking place in Brisbane.

Flight Centre MD Graham Turner said, “There is no doubt this decision will keep airfares higher and for the government to say that’s in the national interest then what national interest are we talking about?”

He also acknowledged that there had been no clear explanation from the government and that airfares were unlikely to return to more acceptable levels until 2025.

Brisbane Airport Corporation chief executive Gert-Jan de Graaff called for the scrapping of bilateral agreements, telling the conference that they were an “antiquated system”, and that air travel was a business and airlines would fly to markets where more volume is required and therefore money can be made.

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