Prince Charles and Camilla’s tour around the country could cost Australian taxpayers more than $100,000 in flights alone by the time the heir to the throne returns from Vanuatu.
The royal couple are spending about 10 days touring Queensland and the Northern Territory. While it was already known that Australian taxpayers were picking up the tab, an analysis of costs by the Australian Republican Movement has revealed that the flights for the first few days cost at least $38,000 for each of them.
Charles and Camilla are flying on an RAAF VIP plane, which according to recently published figures from the defence department, costs about $4,600 per hour.
The couple have flown between Singapore, Wagga Wagga and the Commonwealth Games, with a total of about 16 flying hours, including the flight from Canberra to Singapore to pick them up.
Camilla returned to the UK before Charles’ trip to Vanuatu on Saturday.
Charles was accompanied by the foreign minister, Julie Bishop, to view the recovery efforts in the country after cyclone Pam struck three years ago. The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet confirmed they flew on the RAAF’s BBJ aircraft, but referred questions about the cost to defence.
Defence referred questions about the royal visit to parliament.
Once Charles returns, he will visit more of Queensland and the Northern Territory, and if he returns to Singapore from Darwin on an RAAF plane there would be at least another 17 hours of flying.
The head of the Australian Republican Movement, Michael Cooney, said their figures were “pretty conservative estimates based on how defence costs these things to transport politicians in Australia”.
“What it shows is the cost is extraordinary, even on the airfares alone. It’s far more than luxury commercial flights would have cost.”
He said the estimates were only for the RAAF flights and did not count other expenses to host and transport the couple in Australia.
Cooney also questioned why Australia was paying for Charles to visit Vanuatu, and what the costs of additional services were.
“The visit … reflects the shared interest Australia and the United Kingdom have in a revitalised commonwealth, which addresses common challenges including vulnerability to climate change and natural disasters,” Bishop said on Friday.
“These are key issues for the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London in mid-April.”
Charles and Camilla, who have previously visited and toured 16 and three times respectively, attracted smaller crowds than past royal visits, and Cooney suggested it was a preview of what the future looked like with Charles as king.
“It doesn’t bring us together in the way 60 years ago a royal visit was a major national occasion.”