Bridget McKenzie: Alan Joyce ‘will appear’ before Qatar probe

Former Qantas chief Alan Joyce will still be required to front up before a senate committee when he returns to Australia, despite a final report having already been handed down.

The senate committee, formed to probe why the government had blocked Qatar Airways’ bid to double its flight offerings to Australia, recommended the government urgently review its decision.

The report also recommended the probe be re-established so it can hear evidence from Mr Joyce, amid allegations he had wielded significant influence over the government’s decision.

The inquiry heard that Transport Minister Catherine King had received a brief from her department in January, and was expected to announce Qatar’s bid would be accepted.

It was not until July that she formally denied the application.

Mr Joyce had been summoned to appear before the committee, but did not do so during their reporting period because he was overseas for personal reasons.

Committee chair, Bridget McKenzie, said Mr Joyce still had questions to answer, because all the evidence supported the conclusion that Qantas had interfered in government process.

“He will appear before this committee and give us the key evidence that has been hidden from us thus far because the Minister has gagged her department, as has the Prime Minister gagged his,” she told ABC News.

“If he won’t agree to appear, we have the power to summons him, which the committee has already decided it will do.”

Last month, Senator McKenzie insinuated jail could be an option if Mr Joyce continued to refuse to appear before the committee.

“Mr Joyce – despite no longer being the CEO – was the figure, because of his close personal and political relationship with the Prime Minister, was the person that we believe intervened and influenced Minister King’s change of mind between January and July,” she said.

“And without his evidence, we won’t be able to get to the bottom of it.”

The report had also recommended the Senate request the House of Representatives to require Ms King to attend to provide public evidence, as Senator McKenzie had called for last month after coming up against a “gagged” department.

Ms King, and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, had at the time accused the Coalition of a “political stunt”.

The committee also called on the government to reinstate airfare price monitoring and task the competition watchdog with conducting a fresh investigation into anti-competitive behaviour in the domestic aviation market.

Australian consumers have experienced higher flight prices than they otherwise would have because of the loss of competition.

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