This tender worth $2.1 billion was evaluated below by Lisa Allen, a journalist writing for the Australian on 13 December 2014. It was granted in 2014 with clauses for renewal in 2018 by the Department headed by Senator Cormann, as the Minister for Finance, to a company whose principal is now Andrew Burnes,  the chief fundraiser and a donor for, and to, the Liberal Party.

Burnes’ company, Australian Outback Travel (AOT) donated at least $150,000 to the Liberal party including $80,000 in 2013 – 14.

AOT merged with Helloworld in 2016. This merger would suggest a conflict of interest when the contract came to be renewed in July 2018, a conflict which was not apparent in 2014.

The contract was renewed in July 2018 after Cormann, who was the responsible minister, and his family had been booked economy class by the current CEO and Managing Director of Helloworld, Andrew Burnes, the current Honorary Federal Treasurer of the Liberal Party.

But this was a flight that the firm forgot to charge the Minister.

In this context, should this failure to bill be considered a bribe?

QANTAS-backed travel group Helloworld has won the prized tender to run $2.1 billion worth of federal government travel management contracts until at least 2018.

The award of the $66 million contract to Helloworld’s corporate travel arm QBT replaces the present group of five travel companies managing the flight and hotel bookings of 142 federal government agencies.

Helloworld beat out Flight Centre, American Express International and Carlson Wagonlit for the work — believed to be Australia’s largest travel contract — with the announcement sending shares in the group soaring 46 per cent yesterday to close at 38c.

The Department of Finance estimates awarding the whole of government contract to one single supplier will reduce administration costs and cut travel management services by about 3 per cent.

The new system will be fully operational by July 1, 2015, with options in place to extend the contract for a further three years.

Flight Centre declined to comment on Helloworld’s win yesterday. However a spokesman said: “We are Australia’s largest business travel retailer and we have an extensive and diverse client base. We will continue to focus on growing that and working with our current government clients to the end of the contract.”

In an analyst’s note, JPMorgan said Helloworld’s win could increase it total transaction volumes by 28 per cent for the full year 2016 but would increase group’s earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation by just 2.2 per cent.

In terms of the impact to competitors such as Flight Centre, who had been a member of the previous panel that used to service the contract, we believe the impact will be extremely immaterial,” JPMorgan said.

Helloworld’s chief operating officer Elizabeth Gaines said QBT previously had 58 government agencies or 65 per cent of the government’s total transaction value.

We had a significant proportion of the work, we will require some additional staff,” she said. “The share price is up 29 per cent this morning. We are delighted (to have won) there has been a lot of speculation about this. If you have a great team and you invest in technology and prove yourself you can come out on top.”

Under the deal QBT will be responsible for providing an online portal and booking tool as well as travel management services.

Having been blocked at every turn during my enquiries over Senator Abetz and his chartering of a flight from Launceston to Hobart one Friday night at a cost to the public purse of over $2,000, I know that it is almost impossible to discover what our pollies get up to when flying at our expense.

Helloworld, a listed public company, booked the flights for Senator Cormann, his wife and two children on the company’s “Staff and Family Travel” account, and then paid on his behalf $2,780.82 for the Singapore flights, which Cormann booked in July 2017 for flights in the peak holiday period of the school summer holidays in January 2018 .. but Helloworld never sent the bill to Cormann.

Why was this, when Cormann apparently booked the flights personally with the company’s CEO?

Do I sense the smell of corruption?

As the Minister for Finance, did Mr Cormann have supervision over the travel contract renewal granted to Helloworld for parliamentarians and civil servants, a contract worth billions of dollars?

If so will he now resign?

Why did the flights cost $695 each, return was this a special mates rate to get him on the plane prior to an upgrade?

Cormann has now reimbursed the travel company.


Did Cormann, as a Minister of the Crown, get an upgrade ?

Did the Cormann family get an upgrade?

Did they use the first class lounge at the airport, or the very special VIP lounge?

Did the travel company book the hotel, and if so, who paid for all the rooms?

If the travel company booked the rooms, has it been reimbursed?

Helloworld, can you book me a return ticket to Singapore in peak holiday period for $695 return?

Helloworld, which airline dispenses such largesse?

The Singapore trip was presumably a holiday, because the only declared overseas trip by the Minister in his declared expenses between 1 July 2017 and January 2018 was this:

Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann:

Overseas Travel The Netherlands, Ireland and Germany 24 Jun to 12 Jul 17 To lead the European Australian Business Council 11th Business Mission to Europe and conduct bilateral meetings.

Accommodation and meals $22,371.36

Fares $16,314.40

Ground transport $8,053.05

Related travel expenses $762.39

Employee Overseas Costs^ $13,833.73

Total $61,334.93

John Hawkins was born and educated in England. He has lived in Tasmania for 16 years. He is the author of “Australian Silver 1800–1900” and “Thomas Cole and Victorian Clockmaking” and “The Hawkins Zoomorphic Collection” as well as “The Al Tajir Collection of Silver and Gold” and over 100 articles on British and Australian Decorative Arts. He is a Past President and Life Member of The Australian Art & Antique Dealers Association. John has lived in Australia for 50 years and is 77 this year. In two of the world’s longest endurance marathons, and in the only teams to ever complete these two events, he drove his four-in-hand team from Melbourne to Sydney in 1985 and from Sydney to Brisbane in 1988.