Nationals MP George Christensen has spent thousands of taxpayers’ dollars to subsidise his own private trips to the Philippines. Picture: Daryl Wright
Nationals MP George Christensen has spent thousands of taxpayers’ dollars to subsidise his own private trips to the Philippines. Picture: Daryl Wright

Christensen slugged taxpayers for private trips

JETSETTING Nationals MP George Christensen spent more than $3000 of taxpayers' money to subsidise his own frequent private trips to the Philippines.

The outspoken government backbencher charged the public purse for five separate domestic flights between Canberra and other Australian cities, which linked up with his overseas jaunts, over a four-year period.

The Queensland marginal seat MP has been under fire since News Corp revealed he spent 294 days in the Philippines between 2014 and 2018.

His constant travel has earned him the nickname "The Member for Manila" among colleagues and sparked concern at the highest levels of government.

Nationals MP George Christensen and fiancee April Asuncion. He has previously said he visited the country to visit his fiancee and undertake church work. Picture: Supplied
Nationals MP George Christensen and fiancee April Asuncion. He has previously said he visited the country to visit his fiancee and undertake church work. Picture: Supplied

It can now be revealed taxpayers were charged a total of $3069.45 for three flights between Canberra and Brisbane, and one flight between Canberra and Sydney.

The flights took off after parliament had been sitting in the nation's capital.

Instead of returning to his home base in Mackay, Mr Christensen booked flights to Sydney or Brisbane to connect with his trips to Manila, saving himself time and money.

Rules around parliamentary expenses entitle MPs to a publicly funded flight from Canberra to their home base prior and post parliamentary sitting weeks.

There are no direct flights between Mackay and Canberra, which means Mr Christensen would have had to connect through other cities to return home.

However, while an average Australian could expect to pay between $450 and $500 to fly from Canberra to Mackay, taxpayers were billed as much as $877 for Mr Christensen to fly to Brisbane.

A spokeswoman for Mr Christensen said yesterday: "George has responded to previous queries and no further communication will be entered into."

The frequent flyer has dismissed previous attacks about his regular overseas trips as a "smear campaign" and denied any of his private trips were billed to the taxpayer.

On September 5, 2014, Mr Christensen charged taxpayers to fly from Canberra to Brisbane. He then left for Manila for 14 days.

On February 12, 2015 he flew from Canberra to Brisbane, on a business-class flight costing $688.65, to then fly to the Philippines for five days.

On August 20, 2015 he flew from Canberra to Brisbane, charging the public purse $763.74, and then left on flight QF019 and to spends five days in the Philippines.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison previously said he expected his MPs to be working in their electorates and doing their job, not gallivanting abroad. Photo: Glenn Hunt
Prime Minister Scott Morrison previously said he expected his MPs to be working in their electorates and doing their job, not gallivanting abroad. Photo: Glenn Hunt

In June 2017 he went to Manila for 17 days, having departed from Sydney after catching a flight from Canberra costing $121.30

On June 1, 2018 a $877.01 flight from Canberra to Brisbane enabled him to fly to Manila for eight days.

Mr Christensen made 28 trips to Manila between April 2014 and June last year, and for two years spent more days in the Philippines than in federal parliament.

He has previously said he visited the country to visit his now Filipina fiancee and undertake church work.

Queensland Labor Senator Murray Watt said there where questions to be answered as to why Mr Christensen timed his personal trips to the Philippines to coincide with the end of sitting periods

"Was this to save himself hundreds of dollars in flights?"

"How much did Mr Christensen save, by not flying home to his electorate before taking any holidays to Manila?"