19 September 2023


A federal senate public inquiry was held today in Sydney by the Select Committee on Commonwealth Bilateral Air Service Agreements. The committee is investigating the operation of air services in Australia.

Deputy chair of the committee, Senator Ralph Babet, put a question to Dr Tony Webber, former Qantas Chief Economist and current Managing Director of Airline Intelligence and Research. Dr Webber was asked if he thought there was an unhealthy relationship between Qantas and the Australian Government.

Dr Webber responded: “It does seem that way.”

Senator Babet then asked Dr Webber if Qatar Airways flights into regional airports as suggested by the Minister would be economically viable to which he answered, “No”.

Flight Centre CEO Mr Graham Turner was then asked by Senator Babet if the interests of Qantas had been favoured over other providers such as Virgin and international carriers like Qatar Airways.

“It would appear that way,” was Mr Turner’s response.

“What has been revealed today by expert witnesses giving evidence to this committee are the poor decisions being made by the Labor Transport Minister that are against the national interest but in favour of Qantas,” Senator Babet said.

“It is not government’s job to show bias or pick winners. The rising cost of living is hurting all household budgets. Promoting competition in the airline sector will lower the cost of passenger airfares, but also freight which feeds into the price of most items we consume.

“We are only at day one of our hearing and I will continue to ask the right questions on behalf of the Australian people into bad decisions of the Labor federal government,” he said.