Transport Minister’s Decision To Block Qatar Airways Linked To Invasive Body Searches

Transport Minister Catherine King has cited invasive body searches as a factor behind her decision to block Qatar Airways from adding 28 additional weekly flights to Australia. 

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The decision came after an incident in 2020 when 13 Australian women were forcibly removed from a Qatar Airways plane in Doha and subjected to invasive strip searches while authorities were searching for the mother of a newborn baby found in an airport bathroom. 

Five of these women are now pursuing legal action against the Qatar Civil Aviation Authority, Qatar Company for Airports Operation and Management, and Qatar Airways.

Minister King acknowledged that this incident provided “context” for her decision but said it was not the sole determinant.

“There is no one factor I will point to that swayed my decision one way or another,” Ms King said.

“Certainly, for context, this is the airline that has something like that that has happened, so I can’t say that I wasn’t aware of it, but certainly it wasn’t the only factor,” she added.

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Minister King affirmed that her decision was made in the national interest.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong addressed questions about why she did not raise the issue with Qatar’s leader.

“Minister King has made a judgment about what is in the national interest, and I appreciate there are those who, for political or commercial reasons, have a different view.”

The government’s decision has attracted scrutiny amid revelations that Qantas lobbied against Qatar Airways’ bid. 

The opposition accuses the government of protecting Qantas from competition and questions the transparency of Minister King’s decision. 

A Senate committee inquiry initiated by the Coalition will further explore this matter.

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