Scott Morrison has defended using public money to fly former finance minister Mathias Cormann around Europe.
Cormann has traversed the continent on a Royal Australian Air Force plane as he campaigns for a job with a global economic think tank.
The RAAF plane costs taxpayers more than $4000 per hour of flying.
The prime minister said the jet was being used because coronavirus was “running rampant” across Europe.
“There really wasn’t the practical option to use commercial flights in the time we had available because of COVID,” he told 2GB radio on Nov 25.
“If Mathias was flying around on commercial planes, he would have got COVID. The risk of that was extremely high.”
Morrison also justified the costly flights by arguing an Australian had never held a leadership role at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, more commonly known as the OECD.
“Now we’re in the race for it and it will be very important,” he said.
“Mathias would be an outstanding secretary-general of the OECD, standing up for those liberal, democratic, market-based values which the OECD represents.”
Labor finance spokeswoman Katy Gallagher said Morrison needed to be upfront about what it is costing to fund Cormann’s OECD campaign.
“And whether other options, such as a virtual campaign, were considered before agreeing to the exclusive use of one of Australia’s RAAF aircraft and any other related costs,” she told AAP on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the Australian Greens have written to the ambassadors of OECD member nations warning them that appointing Cormann would be a blow to tackling climate change.
The letter notes Cormann’s vote to get rid of Labor’s carbon pricing scheme and previous support for abolishing bodies such as the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.
Daniel McCulloch in Canberra