Travel and hospitality

Liberal senator fails to declare helicopter flight

Liberal Senator Hollie Hughes has not declared to the Register of Senators' Interests a helicopter flight she took as a guest of the Port of Newcastle Corporation in 2020, Open Politics can reveal.

Sean Johnson

Senator Hughes and Port of Newcastle Corporation CEO Craig Carmody during a tour of the port in September 2020 | Photo supplied to the Newcastle Herald

The Newcastle Herald reported on 22 September 2020 that Senator Hughes toured the port with corporation CEO Craig Carmody and Park Fuels CEO Brett Fletcher to promote its fuel store potential under the Federal Government's $260 million diesel storage program. (Park Fuels and Stolthaven, another port tenant, ended up winning funding of over $40 million.)

While the article did not state the senator toured the site by helicopter, the photos suggested this could have been the case. Further, other senators and MPs who toured the port in 2020 and 2021 - Senator Perin Pavey, Richard Marles MP, Senator Tim Ayres, and Keith Pitt - had all flown in helicopters, as detailed in their statements to the interest registers and in the table at bottom.

However when Open Politics checked the senator's statement of registrable interests there was no declaration of a flight.

We emailed Senator Hughes on 12 May to ask if she flew in the helicopter and received no reply. We then looked at the senator's Twitter feed for September 2020 and found this tweet on 24 September which links to an NBN News video showing the senator did indeed fly in said helicopter.

Under Section 3L of the Resolution relating to the Register of Senators’ Interests, any sponsored travel over $300 needs to be declared, and under Section 2 a senator who knowingly fails to declare an interest in the required time "shall be guilty of a serious contempt of the Senate and shall be dealt with by the Senate accordingly."

Alterations to senators' statements need to be made within 35 days, which means Senator Hughes is now 570 days late and counting in declaring her flight.

The senator though is highly unlikely to face any punishment as the Senate Registrar has previously advised Open Politics that the Senate Standing Committee of Senators' Interests can only investigate potential breaches if another senator refers the matter for consideration.

While it's possible another senator could refer this issue to the committee, senators rarely seek investigations into alleged breaches for fear their own interests will be investigated. Talk about a conflict of interest.

Senator Hughes has been contacted for comment.


List of interests

Tim Ayres12/05/202112. Travel or hospitalitySelfHelicopter tour of the Port of Newcastle on Thursday 4th March 2021. Tour provided by the Port of Newcastle for myself.
Perin Davey07/12/202011. GiftsSelfHelicopter flight from Pokolbin to Newcastle to view mine sites and port developments from air sponsored by Port of Newcastle. 16 November 2020.
Richard Marles11/05/202112. Travel or hospitalitySelfHelicopter tour of the Port of Newcastle on Thursday 4th March 2021. Tour provided by the Port of Newcastle for myself, my Adviser.
Keith Pitt10/12/202012. Travel or hospitalitySelfSponsored travel - 16 November 2020 - Helicopter flight from Bulga to Newcastle and a tour of Newcastle Port including an aerial tour of nearby mines and the Port area on a helicopter leased by the Port of Newcastle.

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