Australian taxpayers have been footing the bill of former Federal Finance Minister Mathias Cormann’s extensive travel to woo votes for the Secretary General position at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), using a Royal Australian Air Force plane for travel, provided by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
The Prime Minister has been actively lobbying for the former WA Senator to take the top spot, last month hosting OECD ambassadors at his Canberra residence and more recently using his first conversation with US President-elect Joe Biden to push Cormann’s candidacy.
Since beginning his campaign to be the first Australian to head the OECD, it’s understood Cormann has travelled over 20,000 kilometres to Oman, the Maldives, Turkey, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, Slovenia, Luxembourg, Belgium and Spain.
The Dassault Falcon 7X has been part of the RAAF fleet since April 2019 and has a range of 11,000 kilometres. It reportedly costs over $4,000 per hour of flying to operate.
The Federal Government’s decision to throw money at the former Minister’s new political campaign is in stark contrast to the tightly held purse strings concerning Indigenous funding during last month’s Federal Budget.
Minimal investment into remote housing was made, despite the severe national shortage of social housing and an increasing homelessness rate.
The 2016 Census found 20 per cent of homeless people in Australia identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.
There were also no specific funding commitments to addressing the overrepresentation of First Nations people in the justice system despite a complete overhaul of the Closing the Gap initiative months earlier. Further funding was only allocated to the Closing the Gap strategy for administrative costs.
While Cormann has been barbequing in Berlin with Australia’s Ambassador to Germany, Philip Green, Indigenous outcomes in Australia remain stagnant with little immediate commitment to advancement.
A bit of downtime over the weekend amid @MathiasCormann‘s busy visit to #Berlin. Time for a #BBQ, including Thuringia sausages. Mr Cormann at the tongs, straddling Australian and German culture! pic.twitter.com/VJexuv5NfB
— Philip Green (@AusAmb_DE) November 16, 2020
Since revelations of Cormann’s use of the taxpayer funded plane, Morrison has defended his decision, saying Cormann would have otherwise contracted COVID-19.
Speaking on 2GB radio station, the Prime Minister said using commercial flights “wasn’t the practical option” in the time available.
“If Mathias was flying around on commercial planes he would have got COVID, the risk of that was extremely high,” he said.
“Australia has never secured such a position before, and now we are in the race for it, it would be very important.”
The Prime Minister’s Office has been contacted for comment.
By Hannah Cross