$5700 flight labelled ‘extravagant’

EXTRAVAGANT: Regional Development Minister TIm Whetstone has been criticised for chartering a $5700 flight from Whyalla to Ceduna.
EXTRAVAGANT: Regional Development Minister TIm Whetstone has been criticised for chartering a $5700 flight from Whyalla to Ceduna.

Regional Development Minister Tim Whetstone has come under fire from Labor for charging taxpayers $5700 to charter a flight from Whyalla to Ceduna during his Budget Roadshow last year.

The Opposition have described the luxury flight as a waste of money which could have been prevented had Minister Whetstone elected to drive the five hours between the country towns.

Labor compared the flight in Queensland company Adagold Aviation’s Beechcraft Baron aircraft to the ‘Choppergate’ incident that saw former Speaker Bronwyn Bishop resign in 2015.

Opposition Spokesperson Tom Koutsantonis said the state government were effectively stranding South Australians through their cuts to public transport while Ministers were ‘splurging big’ on luxury jets.

“The idea you could be making $46 million dollars worth of cuts to public transport but can afford limousines and private jets is extravagant,” he said.

Mr Koutsantonis said it was sometimes appropriate for Ministers to charter private flights but termed Mr Whetstone’s flight as ‘unjustifiable’.

“This was simply about going to a seat to try and sell the budget,” he said.

​“The longest meeting (Whetstone) had there, for an hour and a half was with Peter Treloar, a backbencher – hardly a good use of taxpayers’ money.

“He could have driven from Whyalla to Ceduna, had his meetings and then driven back – I’ve done that.”

Treasurer Rob Lucas called the criticism of Mr Whetstone a “silly season” story.

Mr Lucas said this government was there for the regions as much as the metropolitan area.

“He was doing a regional tour as part of his responsibilities as a minister, he had to be in Kangaroo Island the next morning and the only way to get from Whyalla to Ceduna, having been through the mid north earlier in that particular day and then back again was to actually hire (the charter plane),” he said.

“Over a period of 10 days I think he travelled to virtually every region in South Australia, and that’s the job of a minister in his particular case.

“The former Labor government didn’t see much of South Australia beyond the toll gate and Gepps Cross.”

Mr Lucas also said they were more frugal than Labor had been.

“We are actually cutting in the next four years $19 million in the cost of ministerial offices – that is, overseas travel, interstate travel, intrastate travel and the number of staff in ministers’ offices,” Mr Lucas said.

“So the new government has demonstrated frugality in relation to spending in ministers’ offices.”