SHARRI MARKSON: Now as we've been discussing, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce appeared before a Senate cost of living inquiry. This evening, he was interrogated over the membership he gave to the chairman's lounge to Anthony Albanese son to why, and whether he put pressure on the Albanese government to stop Qatar Airways having extra flights in and out of Qantas and on why airfares are just so expensive at the moment. One Senator who was questioning him was Jane Hume. She's Shadow Finance Minister, and she joins me now. Jane, thank you very much for your time. Look, did you find the responses from Alan Joyce satisfactory?
JANE HUME: Sharri, it's been so difficult to get Alan Joyce to appear before this Committee. We were very pleased when he finally did even though we've spoken to other airline and transport industry representatives weeks ago. Some of the questions that were posed to Alan today we know we're uncomfortable, but that's what Senate inquiry is all about. I don't know whether we've got all the answers that we were looking for. There were questions from not just Coalition Senators, from Labor Senators and from Green Senators as well, about a range of issues. For me the most concerning was that the Qatar Airways decision by this government means that competition won't be won't be improved and prices on air fares will not come down as fast as they could. Alan Joyce essentially admitted that he had made representative representations to the government to ensure that that Qatar Airways decision was made. The government has succumbed to that lobbying, which I think is going to be gravely disappointing for all Australians that would like to see cheaper airfares, particularly on that European route from Australia, which has now been denied to Australians.
SHARRI MARKSON: We also saw a suggestion from the Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones earlier today that the reason that Albanese government made that decision to reject Qatar Airways as application for more flights, 24 flights in and out of Australia was to protect the national carrier. So you know, but Alan Joyce really wouldn't properly answer questions over whether or not this is anti competitive conduct to assist Qantas and assist in returning profits. What did you think of that?
JANE HUME: Well, and then Catherine King, the Minister of Transport and infrastructure got sent out to clean up Stephen Jones's answer, because of course, he got caught out telling the truth, which was it was an intentional decision to to reduce competition in the airline industry and to keep airlines higher. You know, when the government talks about its priority number one to reduce the cost of living for ordinary Australians, except here, don't look at what they say, look at what they do. This was a deliberate decision to keep airline prices higher. And this should be on Anthony Albanese and his government because he has to come to some pretty serious lobbying by a very big, big and very profitable business here to the detriment of ordinary Australians.
SHARRI MARKSON: What about Alan Joyce's response to that flight credit issue, he's facing a class action over this, they're holding some $380 million, at least in flight credits instead of just refunding them to Australians. He really deflected questions, and then another Qantas executive, you know, came in to try and help him answer that. What was your view on how Qantas responded to why they just weren't repaying this money?
JANE HUME: Well, I'm not entirely sure that the other Qantas executive saved Alan Joyce there because in fact, what she revealed was that there is in fact, an additional $100 million worth of flight credits on top of the $360 million that was already in the public domain. And of course, those flight credits need to be used by the 30th of the 31st of December this year. And if they're not used if they remain unclaimed, by those people that couldn't take their flights during COVID. Well, that money will get simply banked to cornices. bottom line. So that was a new piece of information today. And I think that Qantas still has a lot of questions to answer on that. We've asked for a very detailed breakdown of those flight credits, what airlines they are, what flights they are, whether they're conscious or whether their partner airlines, and we'll hope that we'll get those questions back on notice. And then we'll decide whether we need to bring Mr. Joyce and Qantas executives in front of the committee again.
SHARRI MARKSON: Very quickly, before you go. There were also questions about why Alan Joyce gave the chairman's lounge membership to Albanese son, the merits of that decision. How did he respond?
JANE HUME: He said that he wasn't going to answer those questions. He didn't want to answer questions about the Chairman's lounge more generally and he didn't want to answer questions about conversations that he has had with the Prime Minister. Now again, we'll put a lot of questions on notice. We'll see what those questions come up with what his answers come up with and we'll pursue that. But this was a very broad ranging committee inquiry. The other thing that we learned today was that the Qantas were very pleased at the Albanese Government's decision to reduce the amount of ACCC monitoring over the airline industry which of course, the ACCC are there to improve competition to make sure that there isn't collusion to make sure that we see airline ticket costs go down so that ordinary Australians aren't affected by this unnecessary cost of living crisis. We know that if Qatar Airways had been allowed those additional 21 slots, it would have brought down airline prices for ordinary Australians. But because of Qantas is lobbying that is not happening.
SHARRI MARKSON: Yeah and instead, they're 52% higher than they were prior to the pandemic, according to the federal review, and airfares you know, just continue to be so expensive. While, Alan Joyce takes home millions of dollars in his own salary. Jane Hume, thank you very much for your time.