Labor Senator accused of “freelancing” over RAAF VIP jet comments
Freshman Labor Senator Kimberley Kitching has been accused by her colleagues of “freelancing” according to the ABC after she criticised Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on social media for the ordering an Airbus KC-30A equipped with a VIP interior for the RAAF.
Senator Kitching took to Twitter on Saturday accusing the Prime Minister of spending $250 million on a “private jet”. The aircraft is one of two former Qantas A330-200s which were acquired by the Commonwealth in 2015 for about $60m, and are currently undergoing the $190m tanker and cabin interior conversion in Spain.
PM🎩 Turnbull's self-indulgent $250M new private Prime Ministerial plane should be named in his honour so future governments don't forget his cautionary tale administration:
🕷️Cruel to the needy
— Kimberley Kitching 🇦🇺 (@kimbakit) March 2, 2018
While six of the seven KC-30s are equipped with a 270-seat business and economy class passenger interior, one of the aircraft will be equipped with the low-density VIP interior with a small number of first class, about 24 business class, and 50 economy class seats, as well as a reported meeting room, shower facilities, and a bedroom.
Along with the rest of the KC-30 fleet, the aircraft will spend a majority of its time supporting RAAF air-to-air refuelling and transport missions from its home base of Amberley, but it will be available for long-range Prime Ministerial overseas visits when required.
Minister for Defence Industry Christopher Pyne, apparently believing that the acquisition and conversion project had bipartisan support in the parliament, directed a retort to Opposition Leader Bill Shorten in response to Senator Kitching’s tweet; “Shorten caught by an exploding cigar, having being briefed and agreed on the need for a new RAAF plane, now attacking it. I presume he and Senator Kitching will rule out using it if he ever manages to become PM?”
Shorten caught by an exploding cigar, having being briefed and agreed on the need for a new RAAF plane, now attacking it. I presume he and Senator Kitching will rule out using it if he ever manages to become PM? #auspol
— Christopher Pyne (@cpyne) March 3, 2018
A senior Labor source told the ABC that Senator Kitching, “…was definitely speaking on her own initiative.”
The RAAF’s SPA fleet is currently under review, with the two leased Boeing 737-700BBJs and three Bombardier Challenger 604s due to be replaced soon or upgraded. Industry sources have suggested the BBJs will likely be retained for a few more years, while the CL604s will be replaced in 2019 with a longer-range business jet such as the Gulfstream G550 or Dassault Falcon 7X.