Topics: Qatar Airways decision is costing Australians; Parliamentary Workplace Support Service; 

07:58AM AEST
12 September 2023


Simon Birmingham: University of Sydney data shows that Labor’s decision to not approve additional flights from Qatar could cost the Australian economy $1 billion a year. It’s $1 billion a year less for our tourism industry, in terms of opportunities for our exporters, in terms of higher costs paid by Australian consumers. And this is a terrible decision the Government has made for which they have been completely incapable of defending it.

It is time for the Albanese Labor Government to review its decision on Qatar Airways to take the advice of the Labor premiers, the Labor Party’s federal President, tourism and aviation experts and go back to the drawing board on this decision. We’re in a situation where it’s indefensible to think the Australian economy wears $1 billion hit because of the Government’s unwillingness to make a decision that might have caused some annoyance in some parts of the aviation sector but would clearly have increased competition right across the aviation sector.


Journalist: Karen Andrews has raised some allegations of serious and sustained misconduct by a colleague of hers and yours. But in the Lower House, is this the first time you’ve heard of those allegations?


Simon Birmingham: Literally. But look, as the former finance minister who put in place the initial reforms from the Jenkins Review establishing the Parliamentary Workplace Support Service, I urge anybody in this circumstance to use that service that has been established to provide for an independent, impartial, credible and confidential process for any improper actions to occur. This workplace, like any other workplace, should be one of respect of safety, and it does now have proper processes in place to deal with any issues.


Journalist: Are you confident that those processes go far enough? She says that a male colleague of hers repeatedly breathed down her neck during Question Time.


Simon Birmingham: Well, those processes are there, and they are there that I would encourage any member in any circumstance, any staff member in this building or any other to utilise those processes that haven’t been in place all that long. They are important reforms that were put in place following the Jenkins Review and they provide for mechanisms that ought to be utilised.


Journalist: And what about internal party procedures? Do they go far enough as they are, or is it time for a rethink?


Simon Birmingham: Look, I first and foremost, urge people across the Parliament to use appropriate processes. If there are issues that people need to discuss with the leadership within their own parties or otherwise, of course, they should feel free to do that as well. But we acted on the recommendations of the Jenkins Review to put in place the new structures to provide precisely for the type of complaints mechanism to address situations that may arise from time to time. Thanks, guys.