Ben Fordham smashes Anthony Albanese over photo of two Air Force jets

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A photo of two air force jets at a regional airport has sparked controversy, after it was revealed the Prime Minister and his Energy minister chartered one jet each to attend the same event promoting renewables.

On Monday, the image of two RAAF jets at the Scone Memorial Airport in the Hunter Valley was reported by 2GB after it was posted to a local community page, with host Ben Fordham slamming Anthony Albanese and Chris Bowen for failing to justify the separate flights.

“Now the Prime Minister and his Energy Minister are going to be facing some questions and those questions relate to the use of two private jets to fly to the Hunter last week,” Fordham said.

“It’s understood they arrived on the same day, at around the same time, at the same airport.

“Despite our best efforts, the offices of both politicians won’t say why they didn’t share a plane instead.”

Fordham said he had specifically asked both offices if there was a “special reason” why Albanese and Bowen had to use two jets, which would make the decision understandable.

However, Fordham said Albanese’s office “refused to give a straight answer” and Bowen’s office “did not reply” to the questions.

“It’s not a great look, having two private jets sitting on the tarmac at a regional airport, especially when you’re flying in to talk about making environmentally friendly choices,” Fordham said.

“They were flying into the Hunter to make an announcement about boosting the production of solar panels in Australia.”

Fordham’s comments referred to the government’s $1 billion Solar Sunshot scheme announced last Thursday.

The fund is billed to boost the number of solar panels made in Australia and revive the manufacturing sector by “tapping into” a renewable energy boom.

It is understood Albanese travelled with Bowen, Industry and Science Minister, Ed Husic, Minister for Defence Industry, Pat Conroy, and Hunter MP, Dan Repacholi, to promote the scheme from the recently retired Liddell Power Station in Muswellbrook.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, both private jets left Canberra on Thursday to attend the event.

However Albanese’s plane then took him to another location nearby to make an announcement about China lifting wine tariffs, while Bowen’s flew him to Sydney.

Coalition social services spokesman Michael Sukkar said on 2GB that the decision to fly separately was a “scandal no matter how you look at it”.

“I can hardly believe that this would be correct, I cannot believe that the Prime Minister and Chris Bowen would charter two VIP private jets in this way,” Sukkar said.

“Having said that, the evidence is pretty damning. It is a scandal no matter how you look at it.”

“You’ve got a situation here where clearly the PM and his minister are using taxpayers’ dollars to live the high life flying around on private jets,” he continued.

“The prime minister is entitled to the use of a private jet and what would typically occur is a minister (would) hitch a ride with the prime minister.

“But to take a second plane for himself is something that I think is remarkable. It is a grotesque use of taxpayers’ dollars at a time when your listeners are struggling to fill the trolley at the supermarket and struggling to pay their electricity bills.”

Bowen addressed the controversy later on Monday morning.

Speaking from western Sydney, the Labour minister defended the decision and said the RAAF had advised they take two smaller jets because Scone Airport was “not equipped” for the prime minister’s usual plane.

“The prime minister has a large jet available to him, that would normally be what we take, the runway at Scone wasn’t strong enough to take a large jet so the air force recommended a decision to use two small jets,” Bowen said.

When asked if it was impossible for all ministers to use one jet, Bowen reportedly said one plane could not fit all the staff who attended the event.

“As you can imagine, a prime ministerial visit, two cabinet ministers, we limited the number of staff and, even then, the air force advice was [two jets] was the most efficient way of getting us there,” Bowen said.

The trip was intended for Albanese to visit the “coal mining heartland” in the New South Wales Hunter Valley to promote the transformation of the Liddell coal-fired power station into a solar manufacturing hub as part of the $1 billion program.

The prime minister told ABC Radio Newcastle the program was being started in the NSW Hunter Region to ensure coal-communities like Muswellbrook and Singleton were not left behind in a “future made here in Australia”.

Read related topics:Anthony Albanese