Two helicopter flights to Drake in the past year by Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce will cost taxpayers $8000. Photo: Chris Ison / The Morning Bulletin
Two helicopter flights to Drake in the past year by Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce will cost taxpayers $8000. Photo: Chris Ison / The Morning Bulletin Chris Ison ROK160216cpm14

Locals slam Barnaby Joyce's $4000 chopper rides

TAXPAYERS will have to cough up $8000 for Barnaby Joyce's two visits to Drake by helicopter in the past year.

Having the Deputy PM in town obviously didn't impress all Drake residents, with one woman labelling him "Barnaby Bishop", in reference to the Bronwyn Bishop helicopter charter scandal.

"Barnaby Joyce flew by helicopter to our little country town of Drake," Jacqueline King of Drake posted on Facebook.

"He went to the public school, met with teachers and children and then flew off ... what a waste of taxpayer money.

"Barnaby Bishop."

What riled some residents is that Drake is 44km from Mr Joyce's closest electoral office at Tenterfield.

Ironically, Mr Joyce's latest visit was just two days after the government released a review into Bronwyn Bishop's "choppergate", which led to Tony Abbott being ousted as leader by Malcolm Turnbull.

"Use of charter transport must constitute value for money, and in particular that, in the absence of compelling reasons, helicopters cannot be chartered to cover short distances," the review found.

During his latest visit, Mr Joyce unveiled a Telstra mobile phone tower, visited the school and Ridley Bell's Mountain Blue Orchard Blueberry farm and inspected a bridge needing an upgrade.

According to Mr Joyce's office, the helicopter flight will cost taxpayers $3,836, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

As his electorate is up to 99,000 sq/km, Mr Joyce gets a $21,000 travel allowance.

"The charter allowance is not a bottomless pit and the decision to travel to Drake by helicopter to fulfil commitments that day was regarded as sufficiently important to spend this portion of the allowance," a spokesman from Mr Joyce's office said.

"There is no airstrip at Drake, which made the helicopter flight the preferred transport."

As Drake is in the northern part of Mr Joyce's electorate of New England, the spokesman said it would have taken him four hours to drive there from his base at Tamworth.

Last year, when Mr Joyce heard Bob and Desley Kane were selling Drake's only pub, the iconic Lunatic Hotel, he made a flying visit.

"I always try to have a beer after I speak, because if I have a beer before I speak I start saying what I think," Mr Joyce told the Northern Star.

"After I'm finished I'll have a beer and jump in the chopper and head off to fly over the blueberry farm."

The spokesman for Mr Joyce said that flight cost $4166.

He said these were Mr Joyce's only two helicopter flights since becoming the Member for New England.



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