Labor is demanding Prime Minster Tony Abbott detail what work meetings he scheduled in Melbourne on Sunday after revelations he used a taxpayer-funded jet to attend a Liberal Party donor’s birthday party.
Mr Abbott began his Sunday in Brisbane then flew to Sydney to attend New South Wales Premier Mike Baird’s election launch, which began at 11am and concluded just after midday.
Mr Abbott then jetted to Melbourne where he later attended a lavish birthday party for Paul Marks at the Huntingdale Golf Club.
Mr Marks is the executive chairman of Nimrod Resources. The Australian Electoral Commission says that in the 2013/14 financial year, Mr Marks personally donated $250,000 to the Liberal Party. Nimrod Resources donated $500,000 in the same year.
A spokesman for Mr Abbott said the Prime Minister had “other work related engagements” in Melbourne on Sunday but did not specify what they involved.
“All travel was undertaken within the rules,” he said.
Labor MP Pat Conroy, who chairs the party’s Waste Watch committee, said it was an “appalling look” and demanded Mr Abbott detail his work commitments or have the Liberal Party repay the cost of the VIP flight. The VIP jets can cost about $4000 an hour to operate.
“I don’t accept that explanation unless they [Mr Abbott’s office] reveal what work engagements were undertaken in Melbourne,” Mr Conroy said.
Assistant Defence Minister Stuart Robert also attended the event but his spokesman told The Herald Sun: “Stuart was at a private function and if he attends a private function and there are travel costs involved, he pays for himself. No public money was expended on this private trip.”
It’s not the first time Mr Abbott’s use of the VIP jet has come under fire. When the Prime Minister showed up late to a partyroom meeting last year he admitted to an angry backbencher that he was delayed by a press conference scheduled to justify attending an interstate fundraiser the night before.
“He’s got form on this,” Mr Conroy said.
“They were happy to reveal other work engagements in the past and he should this time.”