Monday, 11 September 2023
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Wong: I refer the minister to comments made last week by the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, Catherine King, when she said regarding the government's rejection of Qatar Airways:
I consulted colleagues prior to the decision, but the decision was mine.
Can you confirm, given Minister King's claims she consulted with colleagues, that you, as this nation's foreign affairs minister, were consulted prior to her making this decision in the national interest on a matter of foreign relations? If so, what was the nature of that consultation and on what date did that, or those conversations, occur?
Thank you to Senator McKenzie for the question. Obviously, this is a decision that was a decision of Ms King's. I've made the point that this was a decision that, in fact, changed nothing. It was a decision that went to the status quo, and Minister King made that decision as the Minister for Transport, Regional Development and Local Government.
Minister King has confirmed she consulted with a number of colleagues and weighed a range of matters to determine whether an expansion was in Australia's national interest. As Minister for Foreign Affairs, I was one of the ministers consulted. I do not intend to go into the detail of those consultations. I can probably point you, Senator McKenzie, to many occasions where Senator Payne said the same thing in answer to my questions.
The minister considers a range of factors when determining expansion of bilateral air rights—it's in our national interest—as did Mr McCormack when he made an identical decision. I have made clear that I don't propose to go through the detail of that. Certainly, one of the things I would say about the way our government operates is that we do have discussions with colleagues and consultations with colleagues. But I have responded to the question and I have nothing further to add, other than to make this point: this is a decision that is consistent with the decision that Minister McCormack made. It's also consistent with the decision that others have made over on that side—that is, to look at what the national interest is— (Time expired)
I'd make the observation it would not be normal practice for a lot of those bilateral engagements to be conducted in the public eye, Senator McKenzie. I would invite you to perhaps engage with colleagues who have held this portfolio. What I would say to you is that—
I would not normally, nor would anyone in this role, go through chapter and verse what is discussed between interlocuters at foreign minister level. I would say to you that we continue to engage with Qatar on a range of issues. (Time expired)