Abbott uses ‘taxpayer-funded VIP jet’ to attend birthday of political donor

Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott.(Reuters / Sean Davey)
Australian PM Tony Abbott is accused of using a taxpayer-funded VIP jet to fly to the posh birthday bash of a donor of his own Liberal political party. His press office, however, claims he did “work-related engagements” at the time.

Abbott's Sunday started with mundane work in Sydney, where he took part in a New South Wales (NSW) Liberal election campaign launch with NSW Premier Mike Baird.

After that, according to the Herald Sun, he flew to Melbourne on an RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force) VIP jet. Abbott, along with 45 other people, then attended the birthday party of mining magnate Paul Marks, which took place at the exclusive Huntingdale Golf Club, the newspaper reported.

He mingled with guests, enjoyed a glass of chardonnay, and even gave a speech in Marks’ honor. Staff at the golf club told the Herald that the PM was “relaxed and friendly.

Marks is considered a major financial supporter of Abbott’s Liberal party. According to estimates from the Australian Electoral Commission, he personally donated $250,000 to the party in 2013-14. His company, Nimrod Resources Limited, also gave an additional $500,000 to the party.

A spokesman from Abbott’s press office denied allegations that the PM attended the posh party of the magnate.

The prime minister had other work-related engagements in Melbourne on Sunday. All travel was undertaken within the rules,” he said.

Marks did not respond to questions about who was present at his birthday celebration.

When you have a birthday party it is a private affair. I don’t have any comment about anything,’’ he said.