Riverina MP VIP flights on RAAF private jets cost $1.23 million including federal election campaign
Riverina MP and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack cost taxpayers more than $1.23 million in private jet costs in the first six months of 2019.
The total bill included more than $942,000 spent on private jets during the pre-election caretaker period from April 11 to May 18 last year.
Mr McCormack cost taxpayers more than $100,000 in private jet costs in a single day on two separate occasions in the weeks leading up to the federal election.
The Riverina MP’s previous flight bill for the six months to December 2018 totalled about $500,000.
Mr McCormack’s spokesperson said the flights were the “most effective option” for travel in order to carry out his duties as Riverina MP, Deputy Prime Minister, and Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Minister.
The figures were revealed in a Department of Defence report tabled in Parliament late last month, which details the cost of ‘special purpose flights’ provided by the Royal Australian Air Force for ‘VIP transport’.
Mr McCormack’s travel bill included more than $5800 to charter a nine-passenger private jet for a return flight from Wagga to Albury on April 12.
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Taxpayers were billed $103,000 to fly Mr McCormack and four others to from Wagga to Mackay and the Gold Coast on April 14 and a further $126,000 to fly from Wagga to Cairns and Mackay on April 28.
Then Labor opposition leader Bill Shorten and deputy leader Tanya Plibersek also made use of RAAF private flights during the pre-election period, with their number of combined itineraries being more than double that of Mr McCormack.
“Commercial options and value for money are always considered as part of scheduling travel and every effort is made to ensure efficient use of taxpayers’ money,” Mr McCormack’s spokesperson said.
“To maximise available time and to meet commitments with community members, groups and stakeholders around the nation in his capacity as federal Member for Riverina, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, often special purpose aircraft are the most effective option.
“It is important to note the Deputy Prime Minister has been Acting Prime Minister at times which requires the use of special purpose aircraft for security reasons.
“All special purpose flights are in accordance with the special purpose aircraft guidelines.”
The Daily Advertiser’s tally of Mr McCormack’s private flights did not include costs for journeys he made while serving as acting prime minister.