The Abbott Government’s age entitlement continues, writes Sydney bureau chief Ross Jones, with information revealing Christopher Pyne and his wife had a taxpayer-funded $30,000 trip to London and Rome in April outside of departmental guidelines.
Imagine, eight hours out of Sydney, ten to go, way down the back of an A380, deep in economy. Two aisles, ten seats across. The dunnies are starting to get a bit ordinary, some kids are screaming, the backpackers sleeping as only backpackers can, with their feet jammed in your seat back.
Drinkers, snorers, fidgeters, loud-mouths, iPads with leaking headphones.
In the middle of this melee, maybe just above the back of seat 76C, can be seen a head of wavy hair.
Can it be? It is!
It’s Christopher Pyne, Minister for Education. And Mrs Pyne!
“G’day mate, youse ever been to London before? Supposed to be grouse, cold but, anyway…”
It beggars belief — yet Pyne would have us believe it.
Fairfax have reported Mr & Mrs Pyne, with chief of staff Meredith Jackson in tow, took a taxpayer-funded trip to Tony’s home town at a cost of $30,000.
In all fairness, the total did include a side trip to Rome to say hi to George and watch John Paul II shot from a canon.
Fairfax put in an FOI request regarding Pyne’s April 2014 trip and struck gold.
The released documents confirm (?) Pyne did indeed fly Economy from Sydney to London, so it must have been a relief when airport staff boarded the giant aircraft at the gate and whisked Mr& Mrs Pyne straight to a Heathrow VIP suite. Cost of suite to the taxpayer, $2060, but worth it because you get to bypass immigration — and they throw in a limo.
According to Fairfax:
Under the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet's travel guidelines, ministers' spouses are not normally allowed to go on trips and are only entitled to if they have an invitation from a foreign government or host organisation and an official program of events separate to that of the minister.
The problem is:
The Department of Education has revealed in response to a Freedom of Information request that it has no documents showing a foreign government invitation for Mrs Pyne nor an official program of events for her.
Christopher Pyne's $30,000 taxpayer-funded trip to Rome with his wife (as reimagined by The Age tablet team). pic.twitter.com/vlkpJDAFh3— Patrick O'Neil (@paddyoneil) September 22, 2014
It gets worse:
But documents published by the Finance Department show Prime Minister Tony Abbott's chief of staff Peta Credlin approved Mrs Pyne's travel because of the "significant representational aspect of the travel".
And didn’t he put in the hard yards for Team Australia? Cripes.
His schedule of events show that he gave a speech at London's Policy Exchange and met two senior British government ministers during the day of April 28.
On April 24, Mr Pyne attended an education roundtable lunch at the Australian high commissioner's London residence — which sounds awfully like a piss up.
At the end of the jolly, just to round things off, the little Aussie party took a day room at the Corinthia Hotel, a snip at $1352, before, eyes downcast, heading for the back end of the return Airbus.
At least he didn’t have to pay for his passport, you did. $352, including the priority fee.
The age of entitlement is over. Welcome to the age of entitlement.
Editor's note: In a previous version of this article we incorrectly named Adam Howard as Christopher Pyne's chief of staff.
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