Qantas is being asked to explain its role in an anti-union crackdown by the Fiji military regime. It follows documents leaked to Coupfourpointfive which show the Air Pacific CEO, David Pflieger, initiated and paid the New York law firm MILBANK, TWEED, HADLEY & McCLOY LLP $US23, 943.75 or FJD $43,200.00 to draft the Essential National Industries (Employment) Decree.
The ABC's JEFF WATERS takes up the story:
Documents appear to show a company part-owned by Qantas, Air Pacific, paid for the drafting of Fiji's new Emergency Industries (Employment) decree.
Qantas owns 46 per cent of the Fijian airline, which is accused of paying a US law firm to draft Fiji's new decree which bans unionism in some sectors.
The decree has been widely condemned by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and human rights groups.
Two Qantas directors also sit on the board of Air Pacific, which is 51-per-cent owned by the Fijian government.
So the question being widely asked is whether Qantas executives knew about, or had a hand in, Air Pacific's involvement in drafting the anti-union law.
Australia's parliamentary secretary for Pacific Island affairs Richard Marles calls the decree a "disgrace".
"There is no sense in which this is fair law, and the ILO have come to Fiji and made it really clear that they disagree with it; that it's in breach of ILO conventions," he said.
"I'm aware of the reports that Air Pacific engaged lawyers to draft the essential industry's decree; obviously Qantas is a near-half shareholder in Air Pacific.
"Qantas's engagement in Fiji is obviously a matter for Qantas, they're a private company, but I think all Australians and Australian businesses that are engaging in Fiji need to be exercising their own judgment about whether or not their actions benefit the people of Fiji."
Mr Marles says Qantas should explain any potential involvement in drafting the decree to the Australian public.
"In this circumstance, I think it is completely appropriate that the Australian public hears from Qantas an explanation for how they've exercised their judgment in this case around the essential industry's decree," he said.
But Qantas, which is facing its own industrial action, is distancing itself from the scandal.
No-one from Qantas was available for interview on any possible connection between itself, Air Pacific and the union crackdown.
But a spokesman said Qantas had no involvement in the day-to-day running of Air Pacific.
Air Pacific did not return the ABC's calls or emails.
ACTU president Ged Kearney says she also wants the situation explained.
And she says that when Qantas's own Australian unions hear about the possible link, it may make matters much worse for an airline which is bracing for strike action on Friday.
"There's no excuse whatsoever," Ms Kearney said.
"In fact, it's a significant shareholding. They have a responsibility to be influential with what is happening on the board and ... trade unions would be absolutely horrified to think that Qantas had any role in the drafting of the decrees in Fiji and the implementation and indeed funding it.
"If workers thought that Qantas had any role in what's happening in Fiji, it would simply invigorate the action they're taking against Qantas.
"It goes a long way to explaining - if it were true, that Qantas did have a role in this - a long way to explaining why they have the attitude they're having to their workers in Australia; why it's so difficult for Australian trade unions to actually be negotiating decent outcomes for their workers here."