‘Escaping traffic’: Wild claim about VIP flights

The Nationals’ 2023 Federal Conference
Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce laballed Richard Marles’ flight spending as a ‘political risk’. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Martin Ollman

Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek and Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce have gone head-to-head over the deputy prime minister’s VIP flight debacle ahead of the deadline for him to release the details of the multimillion-dollar travel.

Richard Marles has until Thursday to provide details on the dates, costs and destinations of every flight he has taken as defence minister since January 2021, after it emerged he spent $3.6 million on flights over the past two years.

Ms Plibersek said that she did want to see increased transparency around how politicians used public money to travel.

“We have made a commitment to provide this information to the Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority. That is the oversight body that makes sure the parliamentarians, when they travel, are travelling within entitlement,” she told Today.

“He is very confident that every flight that he has taken is within entitlement, because of his work.”

Tanya Plibersek said she thought disclosing flight costs was “the right thing to do”. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Martin Ollman

Former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce hit back and said when he was in Mr Marles’ position he fully disclosed his flight costs.

Mr Joyce said failure to disclose flight posed a huge “political risk” for defence ministers, including Richard Marles.

“He has $3.6m of trips. We are wondering if the risk is when we find out that he is playing golf,” Mr Joyce said.

Ms Plibersek said that her understanding was the release of documents detailing politicians flight details stopped when Peter Dutton was defence minister, not Richard Marles.

According to records the government has not published updated details of Special Purpose Aircraft flights since August 2021, almost 18 months ago.

“Barnaby, you took 65 flights on special purpose aircraft,” Ms Plibersek added.

The former deputy prime minister hit back and said he had “nothing to hide”.

“I'm pretty sure that every one of my flights you can see,” Mr Joyce said.

“I have no problem looking at my flights. Where has Richard been going? Escaping the traffic.”

Richard Marles has flown more than 700 hours on RAAF flights in the past year. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Martin Ollman

According to travel records lodged with the Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority, Barnaby Joyce claimed over $80,000 on travel expenses between September 2021 and June 2020, and Tanya Plibersek claimed around 50k.

Richard Marles has claimed he did not disclose his recent travel as defence minister because it posed a security risk.

Ms Plibersek said politicians needed “to be careful” to disclose a regular pattern of travel.

“I think we have to listen to that. That is really quite a serious thing to be told,” she said.