The minister who denied Qatar Airways (QR, Doha Hamad International) additional flying rights to Australia will not be required to front a Senate Select Committee to explain why, despite members of that committee threatening airline executives with jail time if they do not appear.

Catherine King, Australia's transport minister, caused a political firestorm when she denied Qatar the additional requested capacity despite that airline's application having widespread local support. King has never given a coherent reason why she declined the application. Qatar Airways is currently restricted to just 28 round trips per week into Australia's big four airports - Sydney Kingsford Smith, Melbourne Tullamarine, Brisbane International, and Perth International. The airline is using all of that capacity, including with A380-800 services into Sydney and Perth, and had asked to double it.

In the wake of the decision, Senate Committee on Bilateral Air Services Agreement hearings have heard from multiple witnesses about the fiasco, including Fathi Atti, Qatar Airways' Senior Vice President of Aeropolitical and Corporate Affairs, and Matt Raos, Senior Vice President of Global Sales, as well as Qantas Group Chairman Richard Goyder and newly installed Qantas CEO Vanessa Hudson. Although denied, lobbying by Qantas Group is believed to have significantly influenced King's decision.

Former Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has been threatened with jail by the committee's chairperson if he does not front the committee on his return to Australia. He is currently in Ireland for personal reasons. Senate committees can summon witnesses located in Australia and have the power to imprison people for non-compliance, although this has only happened once, about 70 years ago. Few are taking the jail threat seriously. However, it has undermined the credibility of the chairperson, an opposition senator named Bridget McKenzie, and the committee.

The committee, primarily comprised of opposition and independent senators, wants King to appear to answer questions about the Qatar Airways decision. However, her appearance would also facilitate point scoring and political grandstanding by many committee members. Despite the committee having the power to compel anyone in Australia to appear before it, politicians are exempt from that rule. In a statement supplied to ch-aviation, the minister accused McKenzie of a political stunt. "It is long-standing practice that House of Representatives members do not appear before Senate committees," King said.

The Liberal/National opposition coalition party now intends to ask the Senate what else they can do to force King to detail lobbying efforts that led her to reject the Qatar Airways application. "The Prime Minister, Minister King and former Qantas CEO Alan Joyce are the only ones who can explain why the government made this decision," said McKenzie.