A heavily-redacted document is evidence the Treasurer was not briefed before Catherine King rejected Qatar’s request to double flights to Australia, the Nationals say.
The government was ordered last week to hand over “advice, briefings or submissions” to the Prime Minister, Treasurer and Trade Minister about the decision to the Senate by Monday evening.
But just one document was returned within the deadline. Neither the Prime Minister nor Trade Minister complied with the order.
Mr Albanese and his Transport Minister have been under pressure over the decision to knock back Qatar’s bid to run an additional 28 flights a week to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
The Coalition has questioned whether it was made to shore up Qantas’ market position and have claimed the additional competition would have cut flight prices.
Nationals senator Bridget McKenzie accused Anthony Albanese of treating the senate “with disrespect”.
In a letter to the Senate, Jim Chalmers said just one document fell within the scope – a mostly-redacted question time brief prepared for the Treasurer.
The document outlined a proposed response for Dr Chalmers should he have been asked a question about the decision on the floor of the house.
It offered two talking points: the decision took into account “national interest considerations” and the government would continue to “monitor market developments and explore opportunities to build bilateral trade and investment”.
Senator McKenzie said she found it “incredible” the Treasurer wasn’t informed before Ms King made her decision.
“It is clear that the Treasurer wasn't briefed on this decision,” she told the Senate on Monday evening.
“It is clear that it is a failure of the transport minister, Catherine King, to keep her colleagues informed, and if the Treasurer of this country isn't the relevant minister to be consulted with a decision like this then I am not sure who is.
“There is a long, bureaucratic process that exists around these decisions where departments talk to departments before the brief comes up to the minister for signing, and I find it incredible that the transport department didn't talk to Treasury or the ACCC, particularly on the economic issues.”
Last week, the Senate had also requested the Treasurer provide documents related to the end of the consumer watchdog’s monitoring of the domestic airline industry.
In another letter to the chamber, Dr Chalmers requested additional time to provide the relevant information.
“The request is being actively progressed but additional time is required to finalise this process,” he wrote.
“There is also a need to review the identified documents consistent with the standard practice to ensure their content is suitable for public disclosure.”