Liberal MP defends spending $37k of taxpayer money on flights
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has defended spending $37,000 of taxpayer funds on a defence force aircraft used to fly him to a meeting with cross-bench Senators, and home to Perth.
Public figures show on June 22 last year the Senator flew from Canberra to Adelaide on board a Challenger 604 aircraft, at a cost of $7152.
While in South Australia he met with Centre Alliance Senators Rex Patrick and Stirling Griff, before flying home to Perth at a cost of $13,410.
The plane then returned to Canberra the same day, without Senator Cormann, at a cost of more than $16,500.
9NEWS understands the Challenger aircraft was used as part of the Special Purpose Aircraft scheme, because no commercial flights were available to get the Senator from Canberra to Adelaide and Perth all on the one day.
On the Friday morning, the Senator had media engagements in Canberra selling the government’s $144 billion income tax package passing the parliament.
A spokesperson for Senator Cormann said: "Use of the special purpose aircraft was approved in the appropriate way to facilitate official business in Adelaide in transit from Canberra back to Perth in between two Parliamentary sitting weeks."
The Senator spent a day and a half in his home city of Perth before returning to Canberra on Sunday for the start of the next sitting week.
Senator Cormann's return flight was covered under the usual "domestic scheduled fares" that allow MPs to travel within Australia.
Figures from the Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority show that trip on June 24 cost taxpayers $1808.02.
Senator Stirling Griff, who was in Adelaide with Senator Cormann, has questioned the need for the meeting.
"It wasn't a meeting we instigated, it was a meeting that the Minister wanted to have with us to just discuss upcoming legislation," he told the ABC.
"Look, it could have happened that day, it could have happened the next day, it could have happened three or four days later.
"I don't believe at the time there was a critical need for a meeting on that day."
There is a law that oversees the Special Purpose Aircraft scheme.
Flights under that scheme need to be approved by the Defence Minister, who at the time was Senator Marise Payne.
The law states the Minister should "not approve a use of special purpose aircraft that would not provide value for money in the circumstances, taking into account the need to conduct the relevant member's parliamentary business".
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