Defense Secretary Richard Marles takes a $16,000 VIP flight to watch the Matildas semi-final – and taxpayers foot the bill
Defense Secretary Richard Marles took an RAAF flight to watch the Matildas World Cup semi-final, at an estimated cost to taxpayers of $16,000.
His latest VIP flight follows revelations that Mr Marles’ flight expenses totaled nearly $3.6million this year.
On the afternoon of August 16, an RAAF VIP flight took off from Brisbane, where Mr Marles had attended several press events, to Sydney.
The next morning, the tax-funded plane picked up passengers in Sydney and returned to Brisbane in time for the ALP’s national conference.
Hours later, the defense minister posted photos of the Matildas team and said he was at “Sydney Stadium” for the semi-final.
However, the defense minister and his office declined to say whether he took the VIP flight for two days, even though his attendance at the game and the PLA conference was documented on social media.
A spokeswoman for Mr Marles confirmed that all travel was in accordance with government rules.
“All travel undertaken by the Deputy Prime Minister, whether in his role as Minister of Defense or Acting Prime Minister, complies with applicable security guidelines and procedures,” the spokeswoman said.
Defense Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles (pictured) has racked up more than $3.6 million in VIP flight costs since taking office
Mr Marles posted several photos from a press event at Gallipoli Barracks in Brisbane on his social media on the morning of August 16 – the same day as the Matildas World Cup semi-final.
The cost of RAAF travel has sparked calls for more transparency after publication of flight schedules was halted over ‘security’ concerns last year.
Mr Marles was forced to defend his office’s role in the decision after his travel bill came to light.
“Well, all we did in terms of reporting was follow the advice that was given to us regarding our own safety,” Mr. Marles told ABC radio on Friday.
“And we’ve done a security review to make sure that information put in the public domain doesn’t compromise anyone with respect to disclosure of lifestyles and behavior. This is a standard assessment that’s done in terms of national security.”
National Liberal Party Senator for North Queensland Matt Canavan previously told Daily Mail Australia that Mr Marles should be honest about his flight history.
“I have no problem with our government using planes to do business, but it should be doing it for the best value for the taxpayer,” he said.
“Our Minister of Defense should travel the world and defend our interests. The problem here is transparency.
“The government should publish the same details as us, including where the flights were and who was traveling at taxpayer expense.”
The morning after the Matildas semi-final, the RAAF VIP flight took passengers back from Sydney to Brisbane, where Mr Marles attended the ALP conference later that day.
Mr Albanese (pictured with partner Jodie Haydon) has already made 23 other overseas trips to four continents since becoming Prime Minister in May last year
Mr Marles’ flight costs were $3.6 million, including $1 million accrued since January this year, while Mr Albanese spent $5.3 million from April 2022 to July 2023.
Special logs of taxpayer-funded RAAF flights carried out by Government Ministers were previously published four times a year.
These records detailed where and when ministers flew and who was present.
But publication of flight schedules has been halted since last year on ‘security’ grounds following a review by the Australian Federal Police.
AFP said previous regulations regarding the publication of VIP flight logs failed to protect “passenger lifestyle data”.
Mr Albanese has previously sparked controversy over his frequent trips abroad, with some political commentators dubbing him ‘Airbus Albo’.