Qantas passenger calls out Bill Shorten over allegedly failing to wear a mask

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·News Editor
·3-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

A passenger on a domestic Qantas flight has called out Bill Shorten for allegedly failing to wear a mask on the plane, just days before the Labor MP was diagnosed with Covid-19.

The traveller, who was seated directly behind the politician, claims Mr Shorten was coughing “like a pack a day smoker” throughout the late night flight on May 4.

In text messages shared with 2GB's Ben Fordham Live, the passenger told a friend: “I bet he’s got Covid.”

“Bill hasn’t worn a mask since we took off either,” another message read.

Bill Shorten looks serious at a press conference in April.
Bill Shorten is accused of not wearing a mask on a Qantas flight and coughing "like a pack a day smoker". Source: AAP/File

While most mask requirements in public places across Australia are no longer in place, Federal, State and Territory governments require masks to be worn on all domestic flights in Australia.

The passenger was travelling from Perth to Melbourne on QF782 for a funeral, and told Mr Fordham the coughing bothered him so much he said something about it.

“I said to him, ‘are you exempt from the mask rules?’” the man wrote in a letter to Mr Fordham.

“He [Mr Shorten] said, ‘I’m having a drink’.

“I pointed out that his glass was completely empty and sitting off to the side.”

Text messages from a plane passenger who was concerned with Bill Shorten's coughing.
The passenger messaged a friend with his concerns over Mr Shorten's coughing. Source: 2GB

When the traveller got up to go to the bathroom, he claims Mr Shorten stopped him on the way back to explain that the was coughing because of his “asthma”.

“I said, ‘it doesn’t change the fact that you should be wearing a mask’,” the passenger said.

As the flight prepared to land in Melbourne, the man said Mr Shorten got up to change into a suit and made a “smart arse” comment to the passenger.

“When he got up to change back into his suit before landing, he made a smart arse comment to me about wearing a mask because mine was on my chin.

“My drink was in my hand at the time because I’d just had a sip.”

After the initial confrontation, Mr Shorten reportedly put a mask on, the passenger claimed.

‘Bill always wears a mask’

An advisor to Mr Shorten told Mr Fordham that “Bill always follows the rules” and the former Labor leader denies any wrongdoing on the flight.

Mr Shorten tests himself every day for Covid and tested negative the day after the flight, the advisor said.

The positive test wasn’t recorded until several days after the flight.

Mr Shorten also believed the passenger was being “unreasonable”.

An advisor who was travelling with him wrote in a statement to 2GB: “I travel with Bill a lot … and he always wears a mask – except when eating or drinking.”

The passenger said once he found out that Mr Shorten had tested positive for Covid, he wished he had taken photos or videos.

“He put my health and the health of every other passenger and crew that were anywhere near him during the flight at risk,” he said.

“He’s not being treated unfairly. He should set a positive example to others and accept when he’s done the wrong thing.”

Mr Shorten is currently in isolation and will be out for the final week of the election campaign.

Yahoo News has contacted Mr Shorten's office for comment.

Do you have a story tip? Email:

You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter and download the Yahoo News app from the App Store or Google Play.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting