Minister linked Qatar Airways decision to treatment of Australian women at Doha airport, FoI reveals

  • 8 months ago
#Ministerlinked #QatarAirways #decisiontreatment
The coordinated timing of two important letters released under freedom of information about federal government's decision to block Qatar Airways' extra flights raises new questions about role incident at Doha airport played in rejection. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade was consulted over the letter as Transport Minister Catherine King prepared send a letter to five Australian women suing Qatar Airways informing them that the airline's requests for further flights had been rejected, according FoI documents. . The transport department has also asked Dfat for advice on the contents of a separate letter it will send to the Qatari government, which has formally rejected its request for 28 extra flights a week to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. The documents also reveal that Australian government heavily coordinated the timing of both letters when formally rejecting request in July. Communications between departments obtained by Guardian Australia under a freedom of information request. The five women King wrote about July were among female passengers who were closely examined without consent as authorities searched for the mother of a baby who was taken off a plane at gunpoint at Doha airport in October 2020 and abandoned an airport bathroom. The women are demanding compensation from Qatar Airways and the Qatari government and had lobbied King to reject their request for the extra flight. The king and government ministers have repeatedly refused to provide reasons for the decision, arguing that Qatar Airways' expansion would be contrary to the "national interest". King initially downplayed significance of the Doha airport incident in rejection, but later acknowledged that it was a factor that provided context to his decision. She also faced questions about influence of Qantas, which lobbied her against awarding the extra flight to Qatar Airways, in rejection. Details vice Dfat officials gave to transport department, secretary state, Penny Wong and King have been redacted because King had previously requested public interest immunity over concerns details his rejection request would harm international relations. But in days before King formally notified Qatar Civil Aviation Authority, which submitted request on behalf of Qatar Airways, Dfat officials who advised on drafting letter were aware of separate letter King planned to send to five Australian women. through the law firm that represents them, Marque Lawyers. Senate inquiry hearings examining the rejection of Qatar Airways' request heard evidence that King was given a departmental briefing with advice in January after Qatar first launched the application process for more flights in October 2022, but waited until July to decide . Qatar Airways officials told inquiry they received the official rejection through QCAA on July 14. Separately, King's letter to five women informing them that extra flying rights for the Qatari airline we