Polley refuses to explain taxpayer flights

Senator Helen Polley
Senator Helen Polley

TASMANIAN Labor Senator Helen Polley has refused to explain the purpose of her taxpayer-funded frequent flights between Launceston to Hobart, as figures show that she spends more on chartered transport than any other Tasmanian politician. 

An analysis of politicians' entitlement claims shows that   Tasmania's federal politicians spent tens of thousands of dollars jetting around the state on specially chartered flights.

Launceston-based   Senator Polley racked up a $23,000 bill on taxpayer-funded flights between Launceston and Hobart alone in two years.

Rather than make the 2.5-hour journey on the Midland Highway, Senator Polley chose to fly between Launceston and Hobart 16 times between July 2011 and June 2013. 

Most were return journeys on the same day, costing up to $3400. 

Under the federal Finance Department's rules, all senators or lower house members representing large electorates are able to access charter transport at taxpayers' expense up to a maximum of $14,860 a year, provided the travel is for the service of their state.  

Senator Polley refused to provide reasons for the trips or to  explain why it was necessary to fly instead of drive. 

Senator Polley, who is  Labor's shadow parliamentary secretary on aged care, did not have any portfolio responsibilities during Labor's term in government.

Former parliamentary secretary for agriculture, fisheries and forestry Sid Sidebottom  spent the next-highest of the Tasmanian MPs at $14,725 over two years. 

His Braddon electorate included King Island, which he visited from Melbourne several times. 

Mr Sidebottom, who lost his seat at last year's election, said he used flights to go between events representing the government or the minister. 

``These flights would have been the only way I could have attended the relevant events in the timetable I was on, otherwise I would have driven or taken commercial flights where possible,'' Mr Sidebottom said. 

Since taking over as Australian Greens leader in April 2012, Christine Milne has become one of the biggest spenders on chartered transport, racking up almost $10,000. 

Records from July to December last year, covering the busy federal election campaign, are expected to be released later this month.