The Queensland Government has backed away from a partnership with Royal Brunei Airlines to the state that was set to begin within months, as condemnation of the southeast Asian country’s anti-gay laws grows.
Royal Brunei Airlines announced in January it was to start a new four-times-a-week service to Brisbane from June 11 this year, in what Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk described at the time as a “win for Queensland”.
Brunei is facing global outcry after last week introducing a harsh new Sharia Penal Code which allow people to be whipped and stoned to death for adultery or homosexual activity.
In January, acting Tourism Industry Development Minister Di Farmer said the flights had been secured through the Queensland Government’s Attracting Aviation Investment Fund (AAFE).
But the Queensland government has now backed away from the deal with Royal Brunei Airlines and said no taxpayer money will be spent on the airline, according to news.com.au.
Tourism Industry Development Minister Kate Jones told news.com.au, “We suspended negotiations with Royal Brunei as soon as we learnt about changes to the law, allowing the persecution of Brunei’s LGBTIQ community.
“We will not provide any taxpayers’ dollars to Royal Brunei Airlines.”
It comes after an online petition calling for the airline to be banned from landing at other Australian airports, which now has over 20,000 signatures.
A protest against the laws is being planned for this weekend outside a Brisbane hotel owned by the Sultan of Brunei, after similar rallies outside Brunei-owned properties in the UK.
But some Australian travellers seeking to cancel their flights with Royal Brunei airlines in light of the new laws are facing hundreds of dollars in cancellation fees through travel agencies and the airline.
Last week, global travel agency STA Travel cut ties with Royal Brunei Airlines amid the growing international backlash.
The travel agency said today it would stop selling flights on the country’s national carrier.
“We’re proud of our open and diverse culture and we expect our partners to demonstrate the same.
“Because of this we have stopped selling Royal Brunei Airlines flights. Anybody who bought Royal Brunei Airlines tickets through STA Travel and who no longer wants to use them can claim a refund, and we will help those customers to make alternative travel arrangements.
“We’ve taken this stance to add our voice to the calls on Brunei to reverse this change in the law and in support of LGBTQI people everywhere.”
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