Transport Minister Catherine King has cited the previous government's concerns about well resourced national airlines undercutting Australian carriers to help justify her controversial decision to reject Qatar Airways' bid for extra flights.
With the federal government under pressure to overturn its Qatar ruling, a defiant Ms King insisted it was the right call.
"I stand by this decision I have made in the national interest," the minister said. "It is a decision that in fact ... is very consistent with the way in which this airline has been dealt with by previous governments."
Ms King told a rowdy question time the request for an additional 28 flights was made by the Qatar Civil Aviation Authority.
"I determined that it was not in Australia's best interests to grant their request," she said.
"There are some businesses and airlines that would have liked me to make a different decision, but I have not based that decision on any one company's commercial interest, but on the national interest."
At one point Ms King's attempt to provide an explanation was derailed by the opposition, which tried to move a motion of dissent in a ruling by the Speaker, Milton Dick.
During a vociferous exchange, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton accused the minister of "running a protection racket for Qantas" and holding up the cost of airfares.
Furor surrounding the Qatar decision has erupted amid accusations, including from Canberra Airport chief executive Stephen Byron, that Qantas has been acting to stifle competition, including by hoarding flight slots at Sydney Airport and cancelling scheduled flights from Canberra.
At a parliamentary committee hearing last month former Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce admitted the airline lobbied against granting Qatar more flights, stoking claims the government was doing the bidding of the nation's largest airline.
But asked if she had talked with Qantas before making her July 10 decision, Ms King said that, "to the best of my recollection the people who talked to me about the Qatar decision was a discussion I had with Virgin, a third party approached my office on behalf of Qatar".
Ms King said the recent discussions she had had with Qantas were about the government's Same Job, Same Pay legislation.
The minister told parliament her decision was in line with a "safeguard article" introduced by former transport minister and Riverina MP Michael McCormack.
"As the member [for Riverina] has said when he introduced that safeguard article, because - and I quote - 'you can't have an airline coming in from overseas and just undercutting to the point where Australian jobs are at risk and Australian airlines were closed'," the minister said.
"And he said 'deep pockets undercut, undercut, undercut and people go to them, as opposed to an airline that may be majority Australian owned and unable to compete with this unfair undercutting of prices'."
When he was transport minister in 2018, Mr McCormack approved additional flights from Qatar Airways.
He told The Canberra Times he consulted widely in making the decision, including fellow ministers, airports and other stakeholders and made his decision through the "prism" of national interest and security.
"I consulted widely [and decided] I would allow them to expand the number of routes, flights and ports, but I did not give them everything that they wanted," he said.
Mr McCormack said transport ministers had the power to make such decisions without the need to inform the prime minister or take it to federal cabinet.
But the Nationals MP said he consulted the prime minister on aviation matters "when I thought that was in the national interest".
The government is so far standing firm over the Qatar decision and Treasurer Jim Chalmers on Wednesday dismissed suggestion it could be re-visited.
The political battle has been sustained despite Tuesday's abrupt departure by Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce, who quit two months early in an attempt to provide the airline with clear air to rebuild its reputation with disaffected travelers.
The airline also faces legal action brought against it by the competition watchdog over damaging claims it sold tickets to flights it had already cancelled. The regulator has flagged is will seek damages of more than $250 million.