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Cormann thought he paid for free overseas flight

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Finance Minister Mathias Cormann “genuinely thought” he’d paid for a family holiday booked through a company that also won a government contract.

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The senator has paid $2780 for flights to Singapore in January 2018, after it was revealed today he initially received the holiday for free.

“The travel booked through Helloworld back in July 2017 was on commercial terms and should have been charged to my credit card straight away as instructed by me at the time,” Cormann said in a statement.

“That is what I genuinely thought had happened.”

Helloworld was chosen for a $21 million government tender just weeks before the trip was booked, but Senator Cormann said he had no involvement with the choice of the company or any influence over the process.

Helloworld’s CEO is federal Liberal Party treasurer Andrew Burnes.

The company’s chief financial officer said an administrative error led to the credit card not being charged, and Senator Cormann’s debt was listed as “outstanding” on Helloworld’s internal system.

Helloworld had Cormann’s credit card details in the system, but the accounts department did not process the payment.

The flights were never free and never intended to be free, the company said.

Cormann later told a Senate estimates hearing under questioning by Labor he personally phoned Mr Burnes on three occasions to book travel.

He said he usually received a reminder of outstanding payments and rectified the situation as soon as he realised the Singapore trip payment remained outstanding.

“There can’t be any suggestion at all that this was intended to be free travel – it wasn’t,” he told the committee.

Labor senator Penny Wong asked whether he felt it was an “odd arrangement” to deal with a company CEO, instead of a travel consultant.

“He was my contact that I knew at Helloworld,” Cormann said, adding he had personally known Mr Burnes for “six or seven years”.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the senator had fixed the oversight and there was no link between Helloworld winning the tender and Cormann’s flights.

– AAP

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