Anthony Albanese has come under fire for not disclosing his taxpayer-funded booze bill for his office and guests.
The prime minister’s department has yet to release the details months after the Australian Financial Review requested the information in July.
Mr Albanese went into the federal election campaigning for transparency, but his office has been criticised on several occasions for failing to uphold that vow since he rose to office in May 2022.
His government came under fire in July after blocking more Qatar flights into Australia with Labor’s transport minister Catherine King refusing to front a senate inquiry into her decision to reject the airline’s request.
Mr Albanese’s deputy prime minister Richard Marles was grilled in August over the lack of transparency for his $3.6million VIP flight bill.
The prime minister refused to release his official diary with his legal adviser saying in November it would ‘unreasonably’ interfere with his job. Mr Albanese has since backflipped and agreed to share it.
Although the prime minister will release his diary, the tax-funded bill racked up for booze for his office and guests remains withheld from the public eye.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (pictured) has come under fire for not disclosing his taxpayer-funded booze bill despite agreeing to the release of his official diary
The matter has now been left in limbo following two legal extensions for the release of the details. The request is now months overdue.
The only way the matter could be solved is to settle it through the Information Commissioner without the release of documents.
But that process can take several years, meaning Mr Albanese’s department may not have to release the bill before the next federal election.
Centre for Public Integrity director Geoffrey Watson, SC, slammed the Prime Minister’s department, stating his seeming reluctance to disclose the bill was ‘unlawful activity’.
‘In a country supposedly operating under a rule of law, the government which introduced the laws doesn’t obey their own laws,’ he said.
‘If you’re talking about two- or three-year delays, it’s common that the issue that was being addressed is no longer an issue, or even that the people who need to be held accountable in decision-making are no longer in the role.
‘Experience has shown any engagement with the Information Commissioner certainly means a delay of at least one year but in some instances three years. In other words, it defeats the purpose of FOI.’
Foreign Affairs Penny Wong had previously called for the release of details regarding the money spent on alcohol when Tony Abbott was Prime Minister back in 2015.
Mr Albanese’s diary details his first 100 days of power including appointments with delegates and unions as well as his calls with world leaders.
He refused to release it following multiple FOI requests as his department claimed it would be an ‘unreasonable’ diversion of his resources and interfere with his job. His team have since backflipped and agreed to share it.
Mr Albanese conceded the initial decision was wrong. This came after 17 other ministers released 100 days or more of their diaries.
The request for his department’s alcohol bill is the latest controversy to rock Mr Albanese.
His government controversially decided to block extra flights from Qatar Airways following a push from Qantas to reject the gulf carrier’s application.
Centre for Public Integrity director Geoffrey Watson, SC, slammed the Prime Minister’s department, stating his seeming reluctance to disclose the bill was ‘unlawful activity’
It comes after the government controversially decided to block extra flights from Qatar Airways following a push from Qantas to reject the gulf carrier’s application.
A senate inquiry was launched into the decision by the Coalition last month.
The senate requested the government release documents relating to its decision, which has been knocked back.
Mr Marles claimed the government had ‘nothing to hide’ when he was asked about the matter.
‘A decision was made by the transport minister in the ordinary course of her work, as transport ministers have made over an extensive period of time, around how to apply the national interest in respect of this,’ he said at the time.
‘And that’s all that she’s done.’
Before that, Mr Marles landed in hot water when it was revealed in August he had racked up $3.6million in tax-funded VIP flights.
This included $1million accrued since January of this year.
The costs were detailed in ‘special purpose’ logs following a freedom of information request by Greens Senator and Defence spokesperson David Shoebridge.
It sparked calls for more transparency from the government after the release of flight schedules was discontinued for ‘security’ reasons last year.
It comes following revelations Richard Marles (pictured) racked up more than $3.6million in VIP flight costs since taking office
Greens Senator David Shoebridge (pictured) has been highly critical of the government for charging taxpayers for its private flights
Senator Shoebridge, who put forward his FOI request back in June, has pushed the Albanese government to be open and honest about billing taxpayers for VIP flights.
‘For a government that promised transparency they sure have needed their arms twisted to spill the beans on these VIP flights,’ he said in a statement.
‘This is an eye-watering bill to fly senior politicians around in VIP flights. Of course there’s a need to fly the PM around for offical duties, but this PM is billing taxpayers harder and faster for VIP flights than any before him.
‘The refusal, apparently for security reasons, to tell us where the flights went is a very convenient way to avoid serious scrutiny.’
Flight records of ministers within the Albanese government revealed that Mr Marles had racked up the highest costs – besides the Prime Minister.
‘Special purpose’ logs of taxpayer-funded RAAF flights taken by government ministers were previously released four times per year.
These records detailed where and when ministers had jetted off and who went on every flight.
But the release of flight schedules has been discontinued since last year because of ‘security’ reasons following a review carried out by the Australian Federal Police.
The AFP stated that the previous regulations regarding the release of VIP flight logs failed to protect ‘pattern of life data for passengers’.
Daily Mail Australia contacted the prime minister’s office for comment over the booze bill.