Mired in controversy over alleged favoritism toward the national airline Qantas, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese deftly redirects the narrative by launching a stark assault on the preceding Coalition administration during a parliamentary question session.
The opposition levels charges at the ruling administration, insinuating an illicit intimacy with Qantas. Their aim is to uncover whether the corporation influenced Transport Minister Catherine King’s decision to repel Qatar’s bid to expand its flight services to Australia.
In a tension-filled exchange, the opposition pressed Mr. Albanese to disclose his last rendezvous with former Qantas head Alan Joyce, whether at any of his official abodes, or aboard his private aircraft. The Prime Minister retorted with a searing critique of Opposition Leader Peter Dutton, denouncing his dissemination of “lies.”
Propelled by these accusations, Coalition backbencher Melissa Price questioned Mr. Albanese about the timing of his last meeting with Mr. Joyce, and asked if they had conversed about Qatar’s bid.
Mr. Albanese’s response was heated and assertive. He argued that any accusations concerning close ties to the airline should be directed at former premier Scott Morrison. Contending that Mr. Joyce was never present at his residences, Mr Albanese stated, “The question should go to the member for Cook because (Mr Joyce) has never been at Kirribilli or the Lodge on my watch, not once…Last time he was there, Scott Morrison was the prime minister of Australia.”
The Prime Minister continued to rebuke Mr. Dutton for perpetuating a falsity on the radio while slamming the previous Coalition government for its alleged partiality towards Qantas. “They sided with Qantas when it grounded its fleet in 2011 and knocked out its workforce, we stood up for the workforce,” declared Mr Albanese. He alleged a series of further favoritisms, including a large taxpayer-funded support package, without any mechanisms for repayment.
After the tumultuous question time, Mr Albanese conceded that Mr. Joyce did indeed join other business leaders on his private plane for a journey to Canberra following the Business Council of Australia dinner the previous year.
The session saw another tense moment when Coalition frontbencher Paul Fletcher quizzed Mr. Albanese on whether a quid pro quo arrangement existed between the government and Qantas, implying that the blocking of Qatar’s bid was in exchange for Qantas’s endorsement of the Voice referendum. Visibly taken aback by this question, Albanese countered that corporations were supporting the Voice due to its inherent value.