Karl Stefanovic hits Richard Marles with brutal question amid furore over Deputy PM billing taxpayers $3.6million for VIP flights
Defence Minister Richard Marles has been grilled on-air for the first time over claims he has spent $3.6million in taxpayer funds in VIP flights.
Mr Marles was asked about his flight bill – which included a flight from Sydney to Brisbane for a Matildas semi-final – on Nine’s Today Show on Friday.
Host Karl Stefanovic asking Mr Marles: ‘Will you come clean?’
Mr Marles responded: ‘I am glad you raised it because it has been a very frustrating week in terms of looking at the media.
‘I am the authorising person for those flights. A lot of people travel on those flights. My direct component is a fraction of the number that has been reported.
‘Everything I have done has been on behalf of the Australian people… and I stand by every one of the flights I have taken’.
Mr Marles went on to blame a ‘dodgy spreadsheet’ he claimed was being circulated by Opposition Leader Peter Dutton for the whiff of scandal surrounding him.
Stefanovic said he could clear up the matter by releasing his flight schedules to the public.
Mr Marles claimed he would like ‘to have all that out there because it would make things much clearer’.
Mr Dutton said Mr Marles is putting former federal speaker Bronwyn Bishop ‘to shame… He puts Bronnie to shame’.
Ms Bishop quit as parliamentary speaker after it was revealed she chartered helicopter flights from Melbourne to Geelong to attend a Liberal Party fundraiser in 2014.
Taxpayers forked out $5,227.27 for a journey which usually takes an hour by car. Further spending revelations followed and she resigned from the role in August 2015.
Last week it was revealed Mr Marles was consulted about the decision to stop publishing the details about where politicians fly on VIP flights.
Mr Marles’ involvement was in response to an Australian Federal Police security review conducted at the request of the government.
‘The Defence Minister, as one of the biggest customers of these expensive VIP flights, had a direct interest in this and has clearly benefited from the change in the rules,’ Greens Senator David Shoebridge said.
‘That interest absolutely should have been made clear when his office was pushing to keep the details of its boss’s VIP travel secret.’
The decision to not making the information publicly available was the first time the rule had been changed in 50 years.