Morrison's Wuhan flight fee under fire
A passenger on the Australian government's evacuation flight from Egypt in 2011 says he was not asked to pay, challenging claims by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Australia plans to charge hundreds of Australians $1000 per person for an evacuation flight out of the Chinese city of Wuhan which is in lockdown due to the deadly coronavirus outbreak.
The government has defended the fee by arguing it is standard practice.
But Brisbane man Shane Alexander, who was taken from Cairo to Frankfurt amid the Arab Spring civil strife, today told The Daily Telegraph: "I wasn't charged at all. There was never any suggestion."
In a media release at the time, then Prime Minister Julia Gillard said "the charter flight would be provided free of charge as part of the Government's response to this evolving situation."
Three weeks later, then Liberal senator Russell Trood used an Estimates hearing to ask the then head of the Department of Foreign Affairs Dennis Richardson about the charter flight.
"The costs of that charter are presumably borne by the department, is that right?" Senator Trood asked.
"Yes," Mr Richardson replied.
When The Telegraph today asked Mr Morrison why people being evacuated from Wuhan were being charged $1000 when there had been no charge for Egypt or an earlier Lebanon evacuation.
He replied: "That's not true. They were charged on those arrangements. These are the standard arrangements that are put in place by DFAT for assisted departures."
The government maintains there was a change for the 2006 Lebanon evacuation.
Former PM Kevin Rudd, who was Foreign Minister at the time of the Arab Spring, today said: "Morrison's claim that Labor charged Australians for tickets on charter flights out of Egypt during the 2011 uprising is an outright falsehood.
"The cost (about $3400 per person) was borne by the Government. Why is Scotty from Marketing slugging Aussies to get them out of Wuhan?
"Whether it's coronavirus or climate action or sports rorts, Morrison needs to lay off the 'issues management' and actually tell people the truth. Unfortunately, it looks like he's not capable of that," Mr Rudd told The Telegraph.