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Welcome aboard your Wednesday CBD service, where we’re inviting you to come fly with us as we take to the skies for a special airborne edition.
We’ll start at the pointy end of the aircraft, where you’ll most likely find Country Liberals senator and top No campaigner Jacinta Nampijinpa Price, who, it turns out, billed taxpayers exactly $76,509.19 for 76 business class flights between her election in May last year and July 2023.
Jacinta Nampijinpa Price has a lot of territory to cover.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen
She spent 67 nights staying in hotels in the same period at a total cost of $19,062, according to data released under freedom of information laws.
Now, Price is fully entitled to taxpayer-funded travel while performing her parliamentary duties. And as a senator for the Northern Territory, she covers more distance than most. Her predecessor, Sam McMahon, was frequently parliament’s biggest spender on travel and accommodation.
But not even McMahon, who racked up about $18,000 in airline bills in her last nine months as a senator (the only data still publicly available), was flying at the rate Price is.
And for further comparison’s sake, current Nationals leader David Littleproud, whose regional Queensland electorate of Maranoa is one of the vastest in the country, billed for $42,000 worth of flights in his final year as agriculture minister.
Price has been travelling a lot – as one of the faces of the No campaign, she’s been all over the country fighting against a Voice to parliament. According to earlier parliamentary disclosures, some of that travel and accommodation is covered by conservative anti-Voice activists.
A spokesman for Price said that as a senator for the Northern Territory and shadow minister for Indigenous Australians – who also lives in Alice Springs – she is required to travel extensively.
“The senator’s travel is in accordance with IPEA (Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority) requirements.”
We’ve heard plenty of rage from across the political spectrum towards the privatised “national” airline Qantas and its treatment of customers.
But less common have been politicians putting their privileges where their mouths are and resigning membership of the carrier’s exclusive Chairman’s Lounge, the airline’s airport bolthole for the rich and influential.
Only Labor’s Tony Sheldon and baby-faced Greens MP Max Chandler-Mather have declined to take up the offer of membership extended to all parliamentarians. Recently, Chandler-Mather’s rookie Greens colleagues Elizabeth Watson-Brown and Stephen Bates dropped their access to the swanky lounges, and now we can reveal that teal independent for Kooyong Monique Ryan has also un-joined the club.
Ryan, who was clocking up good numbers on Tuesday with a TikTok video outlining her call for punters to be compensated by airlines for cancelled flights, reckons membership is inconsistent with the lobbying bill she’s introducing later this year.
Monique Ryan, Bridget McKenzie and Jacinta PriceCredit: John Shakespeare
Fair play, we say, while casting our eye around for who might be next to, er, depart the lounge
Not Nationals deputy leader Bridget McKenzie, chair of the parliamentary committee looking at the murky matter of those Qatar airlines flights that never were, and who was in fine form on ABC’s Radio National on Tuesday morning, ripping into Qantas and its dealings with Anthony Albanese’s government.
But McKenzie’s people told us later in the day that the senator would continue to feel free to criticise the airline and would remain a member of the Chairman’s Lounge for as long as it would have her.
Anti-union ideas factory the HR Nicholls Society hasn’t had a full-fledged conference since 2012, on account of it being on a sort of hiatus as workplace issues went off the boil for a few years there.
But with the Albanese government’s reforming zeal let loose on the nation’s workplaces, it’s high time the society got its crew together for some serious jaw-boning. The outfit’s industrious executive director, Louise Staley, has been getting organised to host just such an event at North Sydney’s View Hotel on November 17.
So far we’ve had just one speaker announced, shadow treasurer Angus Taylor. While we’re not doubting Taylor’s ability to pull a crowd, we did wonder where the razzle-dazzle factor was coming from.
But Staley was giving little away this week while making it clear she was planning a show not to be missed.
“Anything that HR Nicholls does involves razzmatazz and box office,” she said.
The HR Nicholls Society’s Louise Staley.Credit: Elke Meitzel
We suggested a couple of names who have recently made their mark in industrial relations – Melbourne developer and bio-hacker Tim Gurner, or former Qantas CEO Alan Joyce.
But no dice, said Staley. “I’m sure Tim won’t be there, and I hadn’t thought about inviting Alan,” she told us.
Never mind. We have no doubt that the big names will start flowing soon, and we’ll keep you updated.
Spare a thought, amid Premier Daniel Andrews′ frenzy of housing policy announcements on Tuesday – aided and abetted by his mate Anthony Albanese – for Andrews’ deputy and heir apparent, Jacinta Allan.
Instead of celebrating her 50th birthday on Tuesday evening, as a regular person might, Allan was stuck in the special cabinet meeting convened by the boss to finalise the first phase of what’s expected to be a sweeping reform effort.
But the minister for the “big build” told us her style was not to be cramped. After all, no politician ever resents being at the cabinet table, no matter what day of the year it is.
“There have been and will be celebrations!” Allan assured us.
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