Victorian minister takes $36,000 jaunt

Victorian minister takes $36,000 jaunt

CATHERINE BEST
March 31, 2010 – 7:04PM

AAP

Victoria’s embattled planning minister Justin Madden splurged more than $36,000 on a nine-day junket to the US, which included jetting to New York, Chicago, Sacramento and San Francisco.

Accompanied by a staffer on the trip last November, Mr Madden racked up almost $28,000 in airfares and more than $8000 in accommodation and expenses.

The trip was taken five months after the parliament passed a no confidence motion in Mr Madden – the first against a Victorian minister in almost 20 years.

The former AFL footballer notched a second no-confidence motion three weeks ago over the damaging leak of a media plan that suggested manipulating public opinion to block the redevelopment of Melbourne’s Windsor Hotel.

When Mr Madden later announced his approval of the project, the bumbling minister could not remember how many storeys were contained in the 91-metre tower at the centre of the controversial redevelopment.

Details of the junket, posted on the Department of Industry, Innovation and Regional Development website on Wednesday, say the purpose of the trip was to “showcase Victoria’s expertise as leaders in sustainable building”.

Mr Madden met with government and industry representatives to learn about stimulating the economy through the creation of green jobs and innovation, the website said.

Cabinet secretary Tony Lupton joined the minister on part of the trip at a cost to taxpayers of almost $20,000.

Opposition scrutiny of government spokesman David Davis said the trip was an unnecessary junket and Mr Madden would have been better off staying at home and focusing on his portfolio.

“Victorians will be angry that this minister has taken them for granted and wasted so much taxpayers’ money,” he said.

“No doubt his interest in massive tall towers was strengthened by his unnecessary sight-seeing tours to the Empire State Building and the Bank of America building.”

© 2010 AAP
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