The Federal Finance Minister has revealed he calls the CEO of one of the nation’s largest travel companies to book his family holidays.
- Federal Finance Minister Mathias Cormann and his family travelled to Singapore in January 2018
- He says he didn’t realise he hadn’t been charged for the flights until contacted by the media
- Senator Cormann insists there’s no link between his flights and the booking company receiving a government contract
Mathias Cormann admitted under questioning at Senate estimates that on three occasions in the last three years he called Helloworld Travel chief executive Andrew Burnes to arrange his trips.
The revelation came when Senator Cormann faced questions about why he hadn’t been charged more than $2,700 for flights to Singapore.
Senator Cormann booked the January 2018 return flights for himself, his wife and two children in July 2017.
He said an administrative error led to Helloworld failing to charge his credit card, and only followed it up yesterday after the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age raised it with his office.
“With the extensive travel that I do undertake on a weekly basis, there’s a lot of travel-related expenditure that goes through my credit card,” he told the hearing.
“Having made the booking, having given and having provided the credit card details, having given the instruction for the payment to be deducted, I assumed that that had happened.”
Senator Cormann said it was the first time he had not been charged for a flight and categorically denied he had discussed free upgrades with Mr Burnes when discussing his travel.
Mr Burnes is the Liberal Party’s federal treasurer and Senator Cormann said he had known him for “six to seven years”.
Senator Cormann said he didn’t think there was anything unusual in asking Mr Burnes to assist with booking the flights.
All three trips were to Singapore and Senator Cormann denied he had ever used a Commonwealth-funded vehicle to get to the airport.
Senator Cormann insisted there was no connection between his relationship with Mr Burnes and Helloworld receiving a multi-million dollar government contract.
“I had no involvement. I had no visibility of the process,” he said.
“I did not seek to influence the outcome of the negotiations.”
Senator Cormann released a letter he received from Helloworld, dated February 19, 2019, in which chief financial officer Michael Burnett said reminder payment notices had not been sent to the Finance Minister despite the payment being listed as “outstanding”.
“The flights were never ‘free’ and they were never intended to be free,” Mr Burnett said in the letter.
The chief executive of Helloworld is federal Liberal Party treasurer Andrew Burnes.