Bronwyn Bishop has slammed Defence Minister Richard Marles’ $3 million expenditure for VIP flights urging the MP to “come clean” about his travel and if necessary “pay it back”.
Deputy Labor leader Richard Marles has raised eyebrows in Canberra this week after news.com.au revealed he had run up more than a million dollars in flight costs since January alone.
The Albanese Government now claims they won‘t reveal where he was flying for “safety reasons”, due to a review that was quietly initiated by the Morrison Government after it was repeatedly embarrassed by the VIP flight logs being published online — including the scandal that ended the career of Bronwyn Bishop.
But Ms Bishop, who was forced to stand down from her role after a furore over a single $5,000 helicopter flight she took from Melbourne to Geelong for a party fundraiser suggested that the spending was the height of hypocrisy.
“I think people were stunned when those figures were released. It looks like he‘s using (it) like a taxi service,’’ Ms Bishop told news.com.au.
“I was gobsmacked. I mean, how anyone‘s running up deals like that as Deputy Prime Minister is amazing.
“I think the thing that shocks me more, to be honest, is that there‘s no destination or purpose given to the trip. And that was also part of the rules and to say it’s a security issue just isn’t true.
“Well, there‘s certainly one rule for socialists and another for everyone else.”
In 2015, Ms Bishop repaid the $5000 for the helicopter flight despite insisting she had not breached the rules.
“Whilst my understanding is that this travel was conducted within the rules, to avoid any doubt I will reimburse the costs,‘’ she said at the time.
Former Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce declared on Tuesday that he would have “sh*t himself” if he had run up Defence Minister Richard Marles’ $3 million bill for VIP private flights and called on the MP to explain “where the hell he’s been flying.”
“It’s a bit rich to suggest he’s a big security risk. I am sorry Richard, you are going to have to explain this,’’ Mr Joyce told news.com.au
“This is not for the deputy PM just when he knocks off work. I would sh*t myself if I got a bill like that. And you’ve got to give an explanation.
A spokesperson for Mr Marles said she would not reveal where he had travelled on the $3 million-plus worth of taxpayer-funded flights.
“All travel conducted by the Deputy Prime Minister either in his role as Defence Minister or as Acting Prime Minister is in accordance with the relevant guidelines and security procedures,” the spokesperson said.
Mr Marles’ office noted the Special Purpose Aircraft Guidelines for disclosure had been revised as a result of a security review led by the Australian Federal Police.
The review found that “the Special Purpose Aircraft Guidelines are not currently fit-for-purpose in regards to protecting security sensitivities, including demonstrating a protection of pattern-of-life data for passengers”.
But it was a different story nearly a decade ago when Mr Marles raged over the decision of the Speaker Bronwyn Bishop to use a VIP helicopter to fly to Geelong.
“Recently, the country dropped its collective jaw at the arrogance of Speaker Bronwyn Bishop using taxpayer money to fly in a helicopter from Melbourne to Geelong,” he wrote.
“The notion of being so out of touch with how the rest of the country goes about life is one of the biggest breaches of faith a politician can commit,” he said.
The Speaker faced a political siege over her entitlements in 2015, which included an expense of $5,227.27 for chartered flights from Melbourne to Geelong and back on 5 November 2014.
At the time, then leader of opposition business, Tony Burke, said Bishop “should provide a copy of the form that she signed confirming this helicopter ride to a golf club was for official business”.
Labor MP Pat Conroy then wrote to Mrs Bishop to clarify her use of parliamentary entitlements and to request the purpose of the journey claiming it did not “meet the pub test.”
“I think this is an appalling look,” Mr Conroy said.
He said the decision does not appear to have passed the “pub test”.
Greens Senator David Shoebridge, who lodged the original FOI request to reveal the data, urged the Albanese government to return to the publication of all VIP flights in the interests of “transparency”.
“When people are facing serious cost-of-living pressures, having politicians tell them their flights are so special, expensive and secret that they can’t know the details really doesn’t cut it,” Mr Shoebridge said.