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Helloworld hits headlines over minister’s Singapore trip

February 20, 2019 Headline News No Comments

Not long after Helloworld delivered its half-yearly results on Monday, it has hit the headlines for an altogether different reason – with the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age saying yesterday that Finance Minister Mathias Cormann’s flights for a family holiday to Singapore were paid for by Helloworld.

Helloworld is run by chief executive Andrew Burnes who is also Liberal Party Treasurer. The Age and Sydney Morning Herald made it clear they are not accusing Cormann or Burnes of any wrongdoing.

Cormann and his family took the trip in early January 2018 but, the article said, the minister only paid for the return flights to Singapore from Perth on Monday afternoon, after Burnes and Cormann were contacted by The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.

Cormann faced hours of questioning in Senate estimates yesterday over the matter. He revealed he booked private travel on three occasions by ringing up Burnes, but denies the travel was a gift, or provided to him at a discount.

As expected, Opposition parliamentarians are making much of it.

Here’s an example, delivered in the House of Representatives yesterday by Matt Keogh, ALP member for the newly created Division of Burt in the south eastern suburbs of Perth.

Keogh said:

“This morning, right across Australia, families have been rushing to book their next holiday with Helloworld, because it has a heck of a sale going on: pay nothing now, pay nothing later.

“Unfortunately, for all those kids dreaming of a free trip to Disneyland or couples looking forward to a holiday in Fiji, this was a limited offer – limited to the Liberal Minister for Finance and the Public Service, Senator Cormann, and only offered by the Liberal Party Treasurer, Andrew Burnes. It was a special deal from Liberal donors just for Liberal ministers.

“The senator told estimates today that he’d asked to be charged for these flights. That was big of him! Here’s some news for Senator Cormann: most people don’t have to ask, and most customers don’t have the company’s CEO on speed dial. If there’s an issue with their Facebook, they can’t give Mark Zuckerberg a bell; if their flight’s delayed, they can’t just get Richard Branson on the blower; if their computer keeps crashing, they can’t shoot Bill Gates a text and get a new one.

     Finance Minister Mathias Cormann

“Mr Speaker, this wasn’t just a day at Cottesloe Beach. Senator Cormann didn’t forget to declare a free bucket and spade. This was multiple flights to Singapore!

“We all know the minister for finance has had problems counting the numbers in the past, but surely even he can tell the difference between 2,700 and zero? How is it okay for a Liberal minister to get free flights from a Liberal donor while the same donor is bidding for a multimillion-dollar contract from the department that this minister oversees? This stinks. It’s not right. And it says everything about what is so wrong with this government.”

At that point Keogh had to break off because his time had expired, but he had made his point.

The two newspapers, the Sydney Morning Herald and Age, later issued important statements correcting their story. See:  Papers issue corrections and express regret on Helloworld editorial

Written by Peter Needham

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