Deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce has defended his use of a $2211 chopper flight for a 120km journey saying that it was allowed.
The journey from his ministerial office in Armidale to Copeton Dam, which would normally take around 90 minutes by car, has reignited debate over the use of chartered helicopter flights from ministers and whether these parliamentary entitlements are within grounds.
But Joyce has defended his actions in an interview with the ABC on Saturday morning saying that the flight was “within the allowance”.
It’s an hour and a half from where I caught the helicopter. It’s not an hour and a half from home: it’s well over two hours from home. And once more, this is within the allowance. The allowance doesn’t say you’re not allowed to use helicopters. It’s an allowance to fly around your electorate.
I’m flying to a place, though, that doesn’t have an airstrip. I’m flying to a dam site. The vast majority of what I do in my electorate is driving: around about 70,000 kilometres a year.
Joyce said it was often in the case of big electorates that there would be certain areas which do not have an airstrip adding that his electorate is “about a quarter of the size of Victoria”.
“And if you have to get to an area that doesn’t have an airstrip, it’s not surprising that you would use a rotary-wing aircraft – that is, a helicopter – to get there.”
The news comes just days after it was revealed by Fairfax that Joyce had chartered two $4000 helicopter rides from his electorate office in Tenterfield in New South Wales to the village of Drake during Easter.
A complex review into parliamentary entitlements was recently released by the Turnbull government which stated that chartered helicopter would be allowed if justifiable under the new federal MP expenses.