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Keating's VIP flight questioned



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P A R L I A M E N T O F A U S T R A L I A · THE SENATE

SENATOR DAVID MacGIBBON

Liberal Senator for Queensland

Acting Shadow Defence Minister

Ceati ’s V IP Flight questioned It was time the guidelines issued by the Minister for Defence Senator Robert Ray for the use of VIP Aircraft were

reviewed if M r Keating’s trip to and from Melbourne to watch a football game fell within their ambit according to Acting Shadow Defence Minister, Senator David MacGibbon.

Senator MacGibbon said the 34 Squadron - the VIP

Squadron - was formed to provide an essential and

important service - the provision of transport for visiting dignitaries from overseas and for the Prime Minister and Ministers in the execution of their Parliamentary duties.

"The underlying reasons for the use of VIP Aircraft by Ministers are twofold, first, that the engagement is important and a matter in relation to the discharge of their

Parliamentary duties.

"Secondly, that commercial airline services were not available or readily available (On the occasions that Members of Parliament are transported by VIP Aircraft both these conditions apply.)"

Senator MacGibbon said Mr Keating’s use of the aircraft failed both tests.

"The football game was purely a social event and adequate commercial airline services were available.

"He could have conveniently flown down by Ansett Flight 213, returning by Flight 220 after the match."

Senator MacGibbon said Ministers did not have automatic use of VIP Aircraft.

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"The use of these aircraft has to be approved by the Minister for Defence in accordance with published guidelines.

"This system of open accountability for the use of this service had grown up because of public controversies in the past going back to the mid sixties.

"No one begrudges a busy Minister the use of transport to fulfil legitimate engagements. Weekend social outings do not fall into this category."

Senator MacGibbon said an additional point should be borne in mind - the RAAF along with the other services was suffering from the reduction in annual funding under the Labor Government. They also had to perform additional duties outside their defence role.

"The RAAF had to provide an airline service during the Pilot’s Dispute, for which they were inadequately compensated.

"They have also had to provide extensive air support during the recent catastrophic floods in Western Queensland and Western New South Wales.

"For these essential services, the RAAF and the Army received no compensation from the Commonwealth.

"Quite apart from the flagrant abuse of power which Mr Keating’s use of the aircraft epitomised, it also added an unnecessary expense to an overstrained defence budget."

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For more information:

Senator David MacGibbon (07) 870 9038 (a/h )

Gary Hardgrave (07) 341 7515 (a/h )