Australia’s ‘sport rorts’ minister Bridget McKenzie used taxpayer money to fund a jet-set lifestyle that saw her board a private jet to watch basketball with Prince Charles.
The former sports minister is under immense pressure over revelations she awarded a shooting club nearly $36,000 without publicly declaring she was a member.
A damning auditor-general’s report found The Nationals deputy leader splashed most of a $100million grant scheme in marginal seats ahead of last year’s Federal Election.
But Senator McKenzie’s latest controversy follows a shocking track record of spending taxpayers’ money on lavish travel arrangements.
Bridget McKenzie, the former sports minister, is under immense pressure over revelations she awarded a shooting club nearly $36,000 without publicly declaring she was a member
Senator McKenzie (centre in May 2018) spent $20,000 of taxpayers’ money on taking a private jet from Rockhampton to Melbourne, where she watched an ice hockey game
When Prince Charles was in Australia for the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, Senator McKenzie boarded a $14,000 taxpayer-funded charter flight to be courtside with the royal.
The then-sports minister took the ‘unscheduled’ flight from the Gold Coast to Cairns in April 2018, even though Australia wasn’t playing.
Prince Charles was seated in the front row, just two spots away from Senator McKenzie.
Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority data showed Senator McKenzie’s trip, on April 8, cost taxpayers $13,955 on a flight classified as ‘unscheduled transport’ from Coolangatta airport, on the Gold Coast, to Cairns.
A similar, non-stop, two-and-a-half hour Jetstar flight would have cost just $221, or 63 times less than the amount she charged taxpayers.
Senator McKenzie’s office, however, said she took the $14,000 ‘unscheduled’ flight was so she could represent then-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull in Cairns as Prince Charles visited Far North Queensland.
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
Senator McKenzie charged taxpayers $14,000 to fly to Cairns on to see a basketball game with Prince Charles
As first revealed by Daily Mail Australia, the following month Senator McKenzie spent $20,000 of taxpayers’ money taking a private jet from Rockhampton to Melbourne, where she attended an ice hockey game.
Her 1,700km direct flight to the Victorian capital, where she watched 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.
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.
In response to a query from Daily Mail Australia, the minister’s spokesman said a charter flight was chosen because no commercial flights were available to get the minister to Melbourne in time for an urgent meeting of the Australian Sports Commission Board.
Senator McKenzie, left with Geoff Henke, is seen at the ice hockey in 2018
The Prince of Wales and deputy leader of the Nationals party Bridget McKenzie (left), during the India V New Zealand women’s basketball game at the Commonwealth Games, Cairns, Queensland, Australia, on Sunday, April 8, 2018
‘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,’ the spokesman told Daily Mail Australia.
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.
Before last year’s Federal Election, Senator McKenzie charged taxpayers $500,000 to relocate her electorate office from Bendigo to Wodonga, The New Daily reported.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison (left) has asked his department head Philip Gaetjens to look at a $36,000 grant Senator McKenzie (right) awarded to a shooting club of which she was a member
Senator McKenzie also claimed $374 from the public purse on August 13, 2014 for overnight accommodation in Melbourne to attend a parliamentary hearing.
The next day she bought a one-bedroom unit at Elwood, in Melbourne’s bayside south-east, for $335,000, sparking claims she was really in the city to house-hunt.
Senator McKenzie didn’t declare her new Melbourne investment apartment on her pecuniary interest register until November 2014, three months after buying the unit.
In the wake of the sporting grants scandal, Senator McKenzie is now facing an investigation into whether she breached ministerial standards.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has asked his department head Philip Gaetjens to look at a $36,000 grant Senator McKenzie awarded to a shooting club of which she was a member.
The former sports minister didn’t disclose the membership on her register of interests.
Mr Gaetjens will also take a broader look at the controversial program the grant was awarded under after a damning auditor-general’s report found most of the $100 million was spent in marginal seats.
The audit found Senator McKenzie ignored Sport Australia’s advice on which organisations should get grants, with 73 per cent of the projects not recommended by the agency.
In the wake of the sporting grants scandal, Senator McKenzie is now facing an investigation into whether she breached ministerial standards