For many Victorians, the 160km round trip between Melbourne and Geelong is a daily commute that takes around an hour each way, but details have emerged that Liberal MP and parliamentary speaker Bronwyn Bishop billed taxpayers $5227 to fly between the two cities.
The Herald Sun has the cost of the charter flight in November last year, which emerged in a Department of Finance audit of politicians’ expenses.
Details about which airport the Liberal MP took off from and landed at were not revealed, but she also made two Comcar trips in Victoria that day, costing taxpayers a further $213.50. Charter flights generally leave from Essendon and Avalon, Melbourne’s second airport, is 25km out of Geelong – and 55km from Melbourne’s CBD.
The distance between those two airports is 61km and the drive would take less than 45 minutes.
The Herald Sun says that depending on the airports used, the flight can take up to 45 minutes, which won’t save any time compared to travelling in a cheaper chauffeur-driven Comcar, which the parliament supplies in every capital city for politicians to use.
The speaker, as a presiding officer, is allowed to use charter transport, including planes, for office holder duties only, when there are no scheduled commercial services. Any charter transport trips must be approved by the special minister of state Michael Ronaldson.
The Herald Sun says “mystery surrounds the reason for the trip, with the Speaker’s office dodging questions about the charter flight”.
“All charter used by the Speaker is done in accordance with the guidelines and within entitlement,” a spokesperson said.
The paper says that for the same price, Bishop could have bought 221 return full-fare train tickets from Melbourne to Geelong. The return taxi fare would be an estimated $350.
For the same amount spent on the charter flight between the two Victorian cities, Bishop could buy a return business class flight between Melbourne and Los Angeles.
Fairfax Media goes into further details about speaker Bishop’s expenses, including $88,000 for a two-week European trip during which she was seeking to become the president of the Geneva-based Inter-Parliamentary Union last year. Bishop led a small parliamentary delegation to Italy, Belgium, Austria and Switzerland prior to the October 17 ballot. The expenses included two staff members, and featured $25,400 on accommodation and food, $42,400 on airfares and almost $14,000 on ground transport.
The four other delegates, Liberal MP Nola Marino, ALP members Glenn Sterle and Tony Zappia and Liberal senator Cory Bernardi spent $63,000 between them on the trip.
Bishop’s total expenses between July 1 to December 31, 2014 added up to nearly $400,000. Her salary is $341,000.
UPDATE: The West Australian, via AAP, reports that the flight was a helicopter charter to a Liberal Party event at a golf course.
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