Federal politicians spent more than $600,000 of taxpayers’ money chartering empty VIP jets to pick them up and fly them across the country in just six months.
Pollie-chartered RAAF jets flew without passengers on 107 occasions at a cost of $610,571 from July to December last year, the Herald Sun has reported.
Perth-based ministers and MPs who chartered the RAAF nine-seater Challenger Jet rather than taking commercial flights to Canberra accounted for the greatest proportion of the bill.
It costs up to $18,000 to fly an empty plane from Perth to Canberra, but wage costs for the RAAF crew increase that price.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and her partner David Panton chartered two empty flights between Perth and Canberra in October last year.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, Employment Minister Michaelia Cash, Justice Minister Michael Keenan and Social Service Minister Porter chartered an empty plane which flew from Canberra to Perth on a return trip on September 20 last year at a cost of $17,996 to bring them back to be sworn in as cabinet ministers.
Senator Cormann and other MPs including Andrew Hastie, Senator Chris Back, Steve Irons and Senator Linda Reynolds chartered another empty jet at a cost of $16,740 to fly to Canberra for a sitting week in November last year instead of taking available commercial flights.
Empty planes were also chartered for shorter routes, with former treasurer Joe Hockey sending an empty plane back to Canberra at a cost of $2,390 after he and advisers flew to Melbourne for a PricewaterhouseCoopers forum in July 2015.
Five “special purpose aircraft” operate out of the RAAF Fairbairn air base in Canberra, but they are usually only used when a commercial airline seat is not a viable option.
The Defence Minister has discretion over use of the service.
Cost of empty jets:
October 17, 2015
Canberra to Perth ($18,414) to collect Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop and partner David Panton
October 24, 2015
Perth to Canberra ($15,066) after dropping Ms Bishop home
July 9, 2015
Mackay to Canberra ($9626) after taking Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce, wife Natalie and media adviser to a portfolio announcement
July 14, 2015
Melbourne to Canberra ($2930) returning after flying Treasurer Joe Hockey and to a PwC forum on 15 July
August 23, 2015
Horn Island to Canberra ($15,903) returning to base after dropping then PM Tony Abbott for a week-long visit to the Torres Strait
September 20, 2015
Canberra to Perth ($17,996) to collect government frontbenchers to be sworn in the following day
September 25, 2015
Canberra to Longreach ($8789) after dropping then deputy PM Warren Truss so he could charter a flight to Karratha
November 6, 2015
Gold Coast to Canberra ($5859) dropping Steve Ciobo off in Canberra.