Finance Minister Had 'No Idea' His $2700 Family Holiday Was 'Free'
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has been caught up in an expenses snafu, after a newspaper report revealed he had received four free flights to Singapore.
The frontbencher said he had "no idea" a travel company failed to charge his credit card $2780 for the family holiday last year.
Cormann booked the January 2018 flights for himself, his wife and his two children through Helloworld, a travel company with links to the Liberal party and which later won a $21 million government contract.
However, Helloworld never charged Cormann's credit card, a "regrettable administrative error" it has now been reversed.
Cormann "genuinely thought" his credit card had been charged straight away, he said in a statement, also confirming he has "absolutely no involvement" in Helloworld winning the government tender.
"At no point did I influence or seek to influence the outcome of that tender process," he said.
Cormann's relationship with Helloworld CEO Andrew Burnes, who is also the federal Liberal Party treasurer, came under scrutiny during a Senates Estimates hearing on Tuesday.
Under questioning from Labor's Penny Wong, Cormann told the hearing he personally called Burnes on three separate occasions over the Singapore flights, and in recent times called him personally for travel needs.
"That's an odd arrangement," Labor's Jenny McAllister said.
"Most Australians don't have a direct line to the CEO of a travel company to arrange their travel bookings. How did the arrangement come out between yourself and Mr Burnes? Did he offer to facilitate your travel? Or did you approach him about becoming your travel agent?"
"Well, Helloworld is a travel business," Cormann replied.
"They are," McAllister agreed.
"But they don't advertise the CEO's phone number, broadly, for general public use."
Cormann said it was only in the last “three or so” years he’d booked trips with Burnes directly, on account of his involvement with the Liberal party.
His office provided a statement from Helloworld's chief financial officer Michael Burnett, explaining the administrative error.
"We have now processed payment of the full outstanding amount of $2780.82 from the credit card previously supplied to us," Burnett said.
"The flights were never 'free' and they were never intended to be free."
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