The Albanese government’s latest claim that it blocked Qatar Airways planned expansion in Australia on human rights grounds, rather than because of a cosy arrangement with Qantas, has been mocked for its hypocrisy.
The decision, which will come at a high cost to Australian travellers, is completely at odds with the way the government treats the airlines of other nations that breach human rights.
Critics have pointed to the partnership between Qantas and Emirates, the national carrier of the UAE where homosexuality is illegal and departing CEO Alan Joyce could have faced jail time if he travelled with his husband.
Holding hands or a simple kiss can land same-sex couples behind bars for up to 14 years in the UAE’s popular tourist destinations like Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
And given there is no statutory maximum sentence and capital punishment is still used in the country, human rights activists warn anyone caught having gay sex in the UAE risks a death sentence under its strict mediaeval Sharia law.
Despite that, Emirates is an official partner with Qantas and shares aircraft, passengers and even frequent flyer points with the Australian airline.
On Thursday, Minister for Transport Catherine King said it was Qatar‘s shocking treatment of women passengers in an incident three years ago that justified its ban on the airline being allowed an expanded presence in Australia.
The minister received a letter from the women on June 27th, 13 days before making the decision to block Qatar from expanding the number of flights into Australia.
Ex-Qantas CEO Alan Joyce could have faced the death penalty if he took husband Shane Lloyd (pictured together) on a business trip to meet bosses of partner airline, Emirates, in Dubai
The United Arab Emirates still criminalises homosexuality, – and even holding hands or a simple kiss can land same-sex married couples behind bars for up to 14 years
The couple live together at their penthouse at the Cove Apartments in Sydney’s harbourside The Rocks district overlooking Sydney Opera House
The incident at Doha Airport in October 2020 saw 13 Australian women passengers get strip-searched and have their genitals inspected after the discovery of a newborn baby found dumped in a bathroom bin prompted a police search for its mother.
Federal Transport minister Catherine King told five Australian women suing over the incident that Qatar would be banned for expanding its Australian flights in the wake of the row.
‘This is the only airline where this has happened, or anything like that,’ Ms King said.
This moral high ground will come at a big cost to Australian travellers and tourist-reliant businesses.
The Qatar expansion would have seen international airfares to and from Australia slashed by an estimated 40 per cent and given a near-$1billion boost to the local tourism industry.
The biggest beneficiary of the Qatar ban is Qantas which can continue to dominate international traffic, and that has put the very chummy relationship between Mr Joyce and Mr Albanese in the spotlight.
But the government has now cited a long list of excuses for the Qatar ban, including the human rights breach at Doha in 2020.
However it begs the question that if the government was so disgusted by Qatar’s human rights record and the 2020 Doha incident, why is its national airline allowed to operate in Australia at all?
‘Why can’t she give an honest answer to questions when she’s asked them?’ Liberal senator James Paterson said of the minister. ‘Why has she given so many other contradictory explanations?
‘If this (Doha incident) was the real reason, why didn’t she just say so the first time she was asked when the question emerged weeks ago?
‘If it’s a human rights issue or a safety issue or a national security issue, the question shouldn’t be, “Are Qatar allowed to have 28 flights or 56 flights?”
‘But whether they should have any flights at all.’
Kos Samaras, former Labor strategist for Victorian premier Dan Andrews – who now advises the Climate 200 independent Teal MPs – joined the outrage and questioned why other nations have escaped a similar backlash.
‘I trust we will now stop importing oil from Saudi Arabia and stop all trade with China until they commit to address their human rights violations and release Australians currently imprisoned there,’ he posted on social media on Thursday.
‘We will also stop importing all Apple products until that company can guarantee us the components, like batteries were not made using slave labour in Africa.
‘Our western lives are all propped up by contradictions, a blind eye turn here and there. All of us, no one lives a guilt free life.’
He added: ‘Just like our tax dollars given to Qantas who then went onto sacking their workers and becoming the most complained about company in Australia over a two- year period.
‘We propped them up in the national interest. Not sure what national interest means though. Does anyone?’
Ironically, it was Mr Joyce who signed the Qantas partnership deal with Emirates in 2013, which also took pork dishes off in-flight menus as a result, during his 15 years in charge
PM Anthony Albanese has faced increased scrutiny over his chummy relationship with Alan Joyce and the government’s reasons for banning additional Qatar Airways flights into Australia
Ironically, it was Mr Joyce – who quit as the airline’s boss on Tuesday – who signed the Qantas partnership deal with Emirates in 2013, and took pork dishes off in-flight menus during his 15 years in charge.
He married his husband Shane Lloyd in November 2019.
Emirates passengers are given dire warnings of the UAE’s strict rules on homosexuality by government advisories and gay-friendly websites for travellers.
‘Many things that are acceptable in Australia are illegal in the UAE,’ warns Australia’s government-run Smartraveller website.
‘Same-sex relations are illegal, and same-sex marriage is not recognised.’
The UK government adds: ‘There have been some reports of individuals being punished for homosexual activity, particularly where there is any public element, or the behaviour has caused offence.’
The Human Dignity Trust website warns federal laws can jail same-sex offenders for up to 14 years, and applies to both men and women.
But it adds: ‘Same-sex sexual activity may also be penalised under Sharia law, under which the death penalty is possible.’
All cross-dressing or transgender behaviour is also prohibited, with schools forbidden from even discussing homosexuality.
It even banned the Disney film Lightyear in 2022 over a lesbian same-sex kiss in the animated children’s movie.
The UAE also has strict laws on drugs and alcohol which means passengers may face jail for having a drink during the long flight to the UAE, even if they are just passing through Dubai to another destination.
The UK warned its citizens in 2018: ‘It is a punishable offence to be under the influence of alcohol in public – including when transiting through the UAE.
‘It can result in custodial sentences and/or fines.’
The government’s ban on Qatar’s additional flights came four years after then-Coalition government was first approached with the proposal.
The transport minister said there was no ‘one factor’ that she would point to that swayed her decision ‘one way or the other’.
‘In making this decision, I did have a national interest, not commercial interests at play when I was making that decision,’ Ms King said.
She confirmed she had consulted with ministerial colleagues and considered stakeholder views.
Ms King said she made her decision on July 10 and she told Prime Minister Anthony Albanese before it was made public on July 18.
Trade Minister Don Farrell said he couldn’t ‘specifically’ say if he had a conversation with Ms King about the proposal.
‘I’m aware her department made it clear they were dealing with this issue and going to make a decision,’ he told ABC radio.
UAE’s human rights record has never been questioned in relation to Emirates flights from Dubai (pictured) while Qatar’s record was ‘one factor’ behind the ban on more Doha flights
The opposition has now called for a Senate inquiry into the decision to block the extra Qtar Airways flights
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said the government wasn’t giving honest answers, which is why a Senate inquiry initiated by the Coalition was needed.
‘This is now eight positions that the minister (Ms King) has come out with and she just keeps changing her story and I don’t know what is fact and what’s fiction,’ he told 2GB.
Mr Dutton said there was a moral imperative for former Qantas boss Alan Joyce to front the inquiry.
The Senate committee is expected to invite submissions from past and present Qantas chief executives, other airlines, airports, economists, the Qatari ambassador, the consumer watchdog and the Productivity Commission.
The committee’s report is expected by October.
Daily Mail Australia has contacted the Transport Minister’s office for comment.
Source: | This article originally belongs to Dailymail.co.uk
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