Malcolm Turnbull and his wife Lucy have been given an international travel perk which no other living former prime minister receives.
His Liberal successor Scott Morrison granted the entitlement in September as the former PM holidayed in New York.
Under the deal, Mr Turnbull would be given the ‘provision of resources’ when he is ‘undertaking international travel as approved by the prime minister in writing from time to time’, Fairfax Media has revealed.
PERKS OF FORMER PRIME MINISTERS
Australia’s five other living former prime ministers, who are no longer in parliament, are entitled to claim domestic airfares, a chauffeur driver, private car expenses, office administration costs and telephone bills.
Bob Hawke, Paul Keating, John Howard, Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard cost Australian taxpayers $225,000 from April to June 2018.
Mr Howard was the biggest spender, claiming $64,600 for office facilities, which was double the amount claimed by every other ex-PM.
Even surviving former first ladies cost the public purse, with Tamie Fraser and Nancy Gorton costing $369 during that time.
Source: Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority
Even the former prime minister, who has an estimated net worth of $200million, seemed baffled by the arrangement telling The Sydney Morning Herald he hadn’t requested the perk.
While former PMs rarely claim overseas travel on the public purse, they can be called to represent Australia at official occasions such as state funerals of world leaders.
Mr Turnbull is the wealthiest Australian ever to have become prime minister and lives at a harbour-side Point Piper mansion, in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, when he isn’t staying in his New York apartment overlooking Central Park.
His living predecessors who are no longer in parliament – Bob Hawke, Paul Keating, John Howard, Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard – are entitled to domestic airfares and office expenses but none of them claim international travel, Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority records showed.
Mr Morrison’s office said he had ‘simply formalised what has been an informal arrangement’, with his spokesman adding it was ‘standard practice for the international travel work expense to be extended to the spouse’.
‘It is not uncommon for former prime ministers to travel overseas on government business,’ he said.
In April 2013, John Howard represented Australia at the state funeral of former British Conservative prime minister Margaret Thatcher in London.
In February last year, Mr Turnbull axed the gold pass entitlement for former PMs, which provided free travel to retired members of parliament.
A by-election is being held on October 20 in Mr Turnbull’s old seat of Wentworth, which takes some of Australia’s wealthiest suburbs including Vaucluse and the world-famous Bondi Beach.
MALCOLM TURNBULL’S WEALTH
Malcolm Turnbull made his fortune after inheriting $2million in 1982 after his publican father Bruce died in a plane crash, back when a house even in expensive parts of Sydney could be bought for less than $100,000.
He invested wisely and in 1994 put $450,000 into an internet start-up OzEmail with his former colleague at The Bulletin magazine, Trevor Kennedy.
That same year, Mr Turnbull and his wife Lucy paid more than $5.4 million for their Point Piper mansion in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, which they bought from socialite Klara Saunders.
Mr Turnbull, who was chairman of OzEmail, and his two business partners sold the start-up to American giant WorldCom in 1998 for $120million, in a deal which netted the future PM $40million.
A year later, the millionaire businessman and his wife Lucy in snapped up a neighbouring Point Piper property for $7.1 million.
In May 2009, the Business Review Weekly magazine estimated he was worth $178 million making him Australia’s 182nd richest individual.
Mr Turnbull made the BRW Rich List again with his net worth estimated at $186million, putting him at No. 197 among Australia’s wealthy elite.
While he hasn’t featured in the top 200 list since, he is estimated to be conservatively worth $200million, following returns from his existing investments.