Foreign Minister Penny Wong took phone call with the Qatari Prime Minister amid mounting backlash against move to block flag carrier’s Australian expansion bid | Englishheadline


Foreign Minister Penny Wong initiated a phone call on Monday with the Prime Minister of Qatar as the issue of the government blocking Qatar Airways from its bid to fly more into Australia continues to dog the Albanese government in the parliament.

“The Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani held on Monday a phone call with the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Australia Penny Wong. During the call they discussed bilateral cooperation relations between the two countries and regional and international developments,” a statement released by the Qataris on their Foreign Ministry website dated Monday said.

The Prime Minister has made clear that any arrangement to allow Qatar airways more flights into the country – a move which experts say would help reduce the cost of international airfares – would require a country-to-country agreement.

Alan Joyce’s ‘cosy relationship’ with the Prime Minister emerges

The government has been under fire in parliament all week over its refusal to allow Qatar Airways 28 extra flights into the country a week amid accusations from the Opposition that Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has been too close to outgoing Qantas CEO Alan Joyce.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Senate voted to hold an inquiry into the refusal by Transport Minister Catherine King to allow the extra flights into the country.

Qantas had opposed the Qatar expansion but the Prime Minister has denied in Question Time that Qantas executives lobbied him on the issue.

Mr Albanese told parliament on Tuesday that he spoke to the boss of Virgin, Jayne Hrdlicka, about the issue in July, and that the airline backed the Qatar expansion.

He admitted that the conversation took place after Ms King made her decision.

A spokeswoman for Foreign Minister Penny Wong confirmed the call to Englishheadline, and that the controversy over the strip-searching of 13 Australian women at Al Hamad Airport while on a Qatar Airways flight in 2020 was among the issues discussed:

“The Minister initiated the call to discuss a range of bilateral matters, including in relation to the Al Hamad airport incident, and multilateral issues ahead of the UN General Assembly later this month.

“The Bilateral Air Services Agreement was not raised during the call.”

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