Michael Kaine
A Senate committee will summon ex-Qantas CEO Alan Joyce to its inquiry on air service agreements. Image by Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS
  • politics

Joyce to be summoned by Senate probe on Qantas lobbying

September 26, 2023

A Senate inquiry scrutinising a government decision to reject extra flights into Australia will summon former Qantas CEO Alan Joyce to give evidence.

The ex-Qantas boss had told the Senate committee he couldn’t attend their inquiry in person or via video link due to personal obligations while overseas.

But he will be summoned to appear upon landing in Australia, chair and Nationals senator Bridget McKenzie has confirmed.

The committee holds the power to summon a witness within Australia, but not to issue enforceable edicts for people overseas.

Senator McKenzie said the committee had received “no indication that Mr Joyce will be available” to give evidence before its October 9 reporting deadline.

Qantas chairman Richard Goyder, CEO Vanessa Hudson and general counsel Andrew Finch will all appear before the committee on Wednesday and are expected to be grilled on the airline’s lobbying of government against additional Qatar flights.

Witnesses for the final public hearing on Wednesday also include Qatar Airways’ senior vice president of corporate affairs Fathi Atti and senior vice president of global sales Matt Raos.

Representatives from the Australian Airports Association, budget airline Bonza and regional airline Rex will also give evidence.

Pressure has piled on Qantas following a potential $250 million fine from the consumer watchdog over cancellations, a High Court ruling the carrier had illegally sacked almost 1700 workers during the COVID-19 pandemic and a Senate grilling on the airline’s huge profits during a cost-of-living crisis.

Transport Workers Union national secretary Michael Kaine called Qantas a “wannabe luxury consumer brand that really acts as a funnel for corporate greed” but said additional flights from Qatar Airways would not necessarily address broader problems.

“We’re not going to fix the serious problems in aviation by flooding it with competition necessarily,” he told the inquiry on Tuesday,

“And we’re not going to fix it by leaving the status quo (intact).” 

Qatar Airways has also been accused of violating worker rights. 

The International Labor Organisation in 2015 claimed the carrier had discriminated against female workers by terminating employees who fell pregnant or married in the first five years of employment.

Though these practices have been phased out in writing, Mr Kaine said reports of discrimination against LGBTQI and female workers were ongoing.

Asked if granting additional flights to Qatar Airways would be a mistake, Mr Kaine said such questions were “complex”.

The Australian and International Pilots Association has called on Qantas chairman Richard Goyder to step down.

The association’s president Tony Lucas blasted Mr Goyder for overseeing “one of the most damaging periods in Qantas’ history”.

“The morale of Qantas pilots has never been lower, we have totally lost confidence in Goyder and his board,” he said.

Mr Goyder’s $750,000 salary package at a time staff were expected to accept a two-year wage freeze was described as “galling and tone-deaf”.

“For our great national carrier to flourish, it needs leadership from a board that understands the value of its employees, respects its customers and can win back the trust of a nation.”

Qantas denied Mr Goyder had received a $100,000 pay rise, saying the remuneration difference in its annual report was due to him taking more of his flight allowances than the previous year.

“That is not a new entitlement,” the airline said in a statement.

While Prime Minister Anthony Albanese did not call on Mr Goyder to step down, he said the airline had its work cut out “to repair the damage that has been done to its reputation”.