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Jet-setting cabinet minister spends a staggering $20,000 of your tax money taking a private plane to an obscure ice hockey game - when she could have spent just $614 on a commercial flight

Daily Mail logo Daily Mail 7/02/2019 Stephen Johnson

a group of people posing for the camera: Cabinet minister Bridget McKenzie (centre in May 2018) spent $20,000 of taxpayers' money taking a private jet from Rockhampton to to an ice hockey game in Melbourne   © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Cabinet minister Bridget McKenzie (centre in May 2018) spent $20,000 of taxpayers' money taking a private jet from Rockhampton to to an ice hockey game in Melbourne   Australia's federal sports minister spent $20,000 of taxpayers' money taking a private jet to an ice hockey game - a month after splurging $14,000 on another chartered flight to meet Prince Charles.

Nationals deputy leader Bridget McKenzie's penchant for RAAF flights took another turn in May last year, when she ran up a huge bill on the public purse to fly from an ultra-marginal electorate in central Queensland to Melbourne.

Senator McKenzie, who also holds the sports portfolio, had been in Rockhampton for Beef Week when she decided to fly to Melbourne to watch a game of ice hockey, which only has a small following in Australia.

Her 1,700km direct flight to the Victorian capital, so she could watch the Melbourne Mustangs ice hockey team, cost taxpayers $19,942, Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority data showed.

An equivalent commercial flight with Virgin Australia or Qantas from Rockhampton to Melbourne, with a stop-over in Brisbane, would have cost just $614 - or 32 times less than a chartered RAAF military jet.

Senator McKenzie even tweeted about her attendance at O'Brien Group Arena in Melbourne's Docklands area with 92-year-old former Australian ice hockey player and Australian Olympic Committee official Geoff Henke.

'At the Henke Rink with the man himself Geoff Henke watching local Melbourne derby match,' she announced on May 11, 2018. 

a person posing for the camera: Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority data showed her 1,700km flight so she could watch the Melbourne Mustangs ice hockey team cost taxpayers $19,942 © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority data showed her 1,700km flight so she could watch the Melbourne Mustangs ice hockey team cost taxpayers $19,942 a screenshot of a cell phone: Senator McKenzie even tweeted about attendance in Melbourne to see an ice hockey match with former Australian Olympic Committee official Geoff Henke © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Senator McKenzie even tweeted about attendance in Melbourne to see an ice hockey match with former Australian Olympic Committee official Geoff Henke

In addition to the $19,942 flight, taxpayers also stumped up another $500 in Commonwealth car bills to get her from Melbourne's Essendon airport for special flights, taking the cost of her chartered transport from Rockhampton to Melbourne to $20,442. 

Senator McKenzie's one-day travel bill cost taxpayers the equivalent of three months' wages for an Australian worker on an average full-time salary of $82,400.

It occurred after she had been in Rockhampton, in the ultra-marginal Nationals seat of Capricornia, for Beef Week events with the local member Michelle Landry.

The minister's spokesman said a charter flight was chosen because no commercial flights were available for an urgent meeting in Melbourne.

a group of people posing for the camera: Senator McKenzie's (left with Geoff Henke) one-day travel bill cost taxpayers the equivalent of three months' wages for an Australian worker on an average full-time salary of $82,400 © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Senator McKenzie's (left with Geoff Henke) one-day travel bill cost taxpayers the equivalent of three months' wages for an Australian worker on an average full-time salary of $82,400

'As the minister had an urgent meeting with the Australian Sports Commission Board and others in Melbourne on 11 May, 2018, a charter was required as there was no commercial flights available to support these official commitments,' he told Daily Mail Australia on Wednesday. 

Despite the expense of the Rockhampton to Melbourne flight, the minister's spokesman insisted 'multiple quotes' were obtained to 'find the most cost and time efficient use of travel'. 

'The minister respects the importance of keeping all travelling costs to a minimum while allowing her to fully and properly undertake her responsibilities,' he said.

The minister's office claimed the Melbourne venue for Australian Sports Commission's urgent meeting was designed to save money. 

'The meeting time also allowed the majority of meeting participants from Canberra to return to Canberra on the last flight and not require overnight accommodation and the associated extra travel costs,' her spokesman said. 

Senator McKenzie's May flight from Rockhampton to Melbourne wasn't the first time she had billed the Australian people tens of thousands of dollars.

a person standing in front of a crowd: In April, Senator McKenzie (left) charged taxpayers $14,000 for a charter flight from the Gold Coast to Cairns to watch a basketball game with Prince Charles (second right) © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited In April, Senator McKenzie (left) charged taxpayers $14,000 for a charter flight from the Gold Coast to Cairns to watch a basketball game with Prince Charles (second right)

A month earlier, she charged taxpayers $14,000 for a charter flight from the Gold Coast to Cairns to watch a basketball game with Prince Charles.

Daily Mail Australia revealed in September the Victorian senator had taken this 'unscheduled' flight in April 2018 from south-east to far north Queensland so she could sit in the front row, two spots away from the prince at the Commonwealth Games.

A similar, non-stop, two-and-a-half hour Jetstar flight would have cost just $221, or 63 times less than the $13,955 she charged taxpayers.

Last year, Senator McKenzie's office said she took this 'unscheduled' flight was so she could represent then prime minister Malcolm Turnbull in Cairns as Prince Charles visited far north Queensland.

'The minister was asked to represent the Government in Cairns and host His Royal Highness,' a spokeswoman told Daily Mail Australia. 

Full response from Bridget McKenzie's spokesman

Just to be clear, the Minister attends many sporting events in her capacity as the Federal Minister for Sport.

With respect to the flight from Rockhampton to Melbourne, the Minister had commitments at Beef Week in Rockhampton, which is an annual event that attracts approximately 90,000 delegates from 40 countries, heavily relying on participation of Local, State and Federal Ministers. The event generates around $75 million in spending across Central QLD.

As the Minister had an urgent meeting with the Australian Sport Commission Board and others in Melbourne on 11 May 2018, a charter was required as there was no commercial flights available to support these official commitments. This meeting time also allowed the participants not from Melbourne to make the last flight home and not require overnight accommodation and the associated extra travel costs.

All travel expenses incurred as a Parliamentarian or Minister are done so in full accordance of the appropriate legislation and regulations.

The Minister respects the importance of keeping all travelling costs to a minimum while allowing her to fully and properly undertake her responsibilities.

When seeking any travel arrangements, multiple quotes are obtained to find the most cost and time efficient use of travel. 

Minister McKenzie had urgent meeting commitments with representatives of the Australian Sport Commission (ASC) Board and additional participants. The meeting was time critical and involved high-level consultation on the National Sports Plan and the Independent review into Australia’s sports integrity arrangements.

Melbourne was the chosen venue for the meeting to accommodate the key ASC Directors based in Melbourne. There were several attempts from our office to secure logistical and participation requirements for the meeting due to scheduling conflictions and this was a time and location that all required parties could participate. The Meeting time also allowed the majority of meeting participants from Canberra to return to Canberra on the last flight and not require overnight accommodation and the associated extra travel costs.

Senator McKenzie (left with local MP Michelle Landry) had been in Rockhampton, in the ultra-marginal Nationals seat of Capricornia, for Beef Week events before charging taxpayers $14,000 for a Melbourne flight

Senator McKenzie (left with local MP Michelle Landry) had been in Rockhampton, in the ultra-marginal Nationals seat of Capricornia, for Beef Week events before charging taxpayers $14,000 for a Melbourne flight
© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited

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