He is the man in charge of managing the country’s finances alongside the treasurer, but Finance Minister Mathias Cormann made headlines for the wrong reasons on Friday after it was revealed he splashed out $37,000 from the public purse on flights in one day.
The Senator for Western Australia is said to have spent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars to cover the costs of a journey from Canberra to Perth, via Adelaide on June 22 last year, as he lobbied for support for the Coalition’s defunct company tax plan.
According to the ABC, Cormann carried out media duties that morning before choosing to fly to Adelaide on his way home to Perth. However, no commercial flights were available to meet these requirements so the Cabinet minister booked himself onto a CL604 Challenger defence jet, onboard which he was the sole passenger.
Cormann then spent some time at home, in between Senate sittings, before making the trip back to Canberra on a commercial Qantas flight the next day.
A spokesperson for Cormann told Starts at 60: “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.”
Not surprisingly public reaction was against Cormann’s use of taxpayer funds, and people took to social media to express their dissatisfaction with the reports. One person wrote: “Why couldn’t Mathias Cormann just catch a bus, like Scott… I mean, even Malcolm chose public transport.”
One said: “Mathias Cormann could have saved the Australian Taxpayer $37,000 if he had of just picked up a phone. No amount of Coalition spin is gonna help this blatant waste of money pass the pub test. Cormann should repay the funds immediately.”
While another angry voter wrote: “Mathias Cormann caught ripping off taxpayers and making us pay for his extremely expensive flights. The flights costs 2x more than the yearly amount of what an unemployed person would receive on benefits.”
.@paulwkennedy: Why would Mathias Cormann's $37,000 flights to lobby senators for tax cuts be value for money?
— News Breakfast (@BreakfastNews) January 10, 2019
Minister for Education Dan Tehan spoke out in his defence of his colleague on Friday’s episode of ABC’S News Breakfast, telling presenter Paul Kennedy that the trip was “value for money for the Australian taxpayer because Cormann was working to reduce the amount tax people pay”.
“He was undertaking negotiations to reduce the amount of tax that Australians will pay,” Tehan said. “He has been hellbent on making sure, as the government has, that we pay less tax and what that trip was about, as I understand, was making sure that we were doing everything possible to see Australians pay less tax.
“I think the Australian taxpayer can look at that and say ‘it was within the rules, within the guidelines’ and also he was there on business trying to get Australians to pay less tax, which the government has been trying to do.”
However, other politicians slammed Cormann’s use of taxpayer funds, with Sarah Hanson-Young telling ABC Radio National: “$40,000 sounds like a lot of money for a meeting that he was obviously very desperate to do but didn’t result in very much.”