AUSTRALIAN Taxpayers forked out nearly $200,000 for VIP flights to transport Prince Charles and his large travelling party — including a dresser, butler, valet and hairdresser — around Australia and to Vanuatu during a 10-day royal tour to open the Commonwealth Games.
The Vanuatu component which included 22 people on a flight from Brisbane to Port Vila for $11,175 and 23 people on a non-scheduled flight from Port Vila to Cairns at a cost of $13,857 meant the Australian taxpayers forked out a total of $25, 032 (VT 2.04 million).
The latest schedule of special purpose flights released by the Defence Department reveals there were 19 flights costing $183,511 associated with the April 1-10 visit last year, although the Prince of Wales was a passenger on only 11 of them.
The most expensive individual flight provided by the Royal Australian Air Force was for three passengers to fly from Canberra to Singapore to meet Charles ahead of the Australian tour, with the 7.9-hour trip on a Boeing 737 costing $35,313.
Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, accompanied her husband on two flights from Singapore to Wagga Wagga and then on to Brisbane at a cost of $38,442 before leaving Australia early.
The heir to the throne also visited Bundaberg, Port Vila with then foreign minister Julie Bishop, Cairns, Mossman Gorge, the Gove Peninsula and Darwin.
The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet had already revealed the cost of the trip excluding the VIP flights was $620,095.91, meaning taxpayers paid a total of $803,606 for Charles’s 16th visit to Australia.
“This seems a very expensive visit, particularly flights that don’t include the prince,” Australian Republic Movement national director Michael Cooney said.
“We know he travelled with a dresser, a butler, a valet, a hairdresser, and to have people who are staff and junior staff fly VIP unaccompanied by the prince is unreasonable.
“It’s not the standard for Australian politics and it shouldn’t be, particularly for the visit to Wagga Wagga, which was a private visit and Clarence House initially said would come at no cost to Australian taxpayers.”
The Australian Monarchist League said the trip was ‘tremendous value for Australians’ and declared Charles was the ’hardest-working royal’.
“Unfortunately, Australia’s political class gets hit with the same accusations when it comes to what are colloquially known as ‘ghost flights’,” an AML spokesman said.
“Prince Charles’s close connection with Australia dates back over 50 years, starting when he spent time here as a student with Geelong Grammar School in 1966.
“The massive crowds waving Australian flags provided by AML volunteers at our own cost was a magnificent sight and showed Australia’s deep love and affection for their monarchy.”
PM&C paid for 13 Clarence House staff to travel with Charles and Camilla for the tour.