Anthony Albanese and Chris Bowen are slammed for jetting off in SEPARATE private jets to climate announcement

A Labor frontbencher has played down accusations that he wasted taxpayers’ money by taking his own private jet to a climate announcement instead of hitching a ride with Anthony Albanese.

Chris Bowen and the Prime Minister were under pressure to come clean after an eagle-eyed local revealed two Royal Australian Air Force planes waiting on the tarmac at Scone Airport.

Both men were in the Hunter Region last Thursday to visit the site of the former Liddell coal-fired power station, where they splashed out cash on grants and subsidies to ensure more solar panels are built in Australia.

But after the Coalition branded the photo as evidence of a “scandal” on Monday, Mr Bowen faced the media in his electorate office in Sydney.

Energy Minister Chris Bowen has played down a private flight ‘scandal’ after he chose to fly solo to a climate announcement rather than fly with Anthony Albanese (both pictured)

He argued that the reason he could not hitch a ride with the prime minister was simple: the runway was not suitable for a larger plane that the Albanian would normally take.

“The Prime Minister always travels with the Royal Australian Air Force… it’s for security reasons and it’s very appropriate,” Mr Bowen said.

‘The airstrip at Scone was not strong enough to accommodate the large aircraft, so the air force recommended and took two small aircraft.’

Mr Bowen said the number of staff accompanying the pair on the trip also had to be reduced due to weight restrictions.

Mr Albanese and Mr Bowen traveled to Muswellbrook and announced the $1 billion funding for the Sun Shot solar panel programme, along with local MP Dan Repacholi and fellow frontbencher Pat Conroy.

The leaders of AGL and Sun Drive – who had just signed an early agreement to build a solar panel manufacturing facility at the former Liddell site.

Both aircraft arrived in the region from Canberra. According to 2GB, one of the jets was on the tarmac for about three hours.

The other only stayed on site for an hour and a half.

An eagle-eyed local on Thursday revealed two Royal Australian Air Force planes waiting on the tarmac at Scone Airport, sparking the saga (pictured)

An eagle-eyed local on Thursday revealed two Royal Australian Air Force planes waiting on the tarmac at Scone Airport, sparking the saga (pictured)

It is not unusual for ministers to use taxpayer-funded Royal Australian Air Force aircraft to travel around the country to make announcements.

When asked about the photo, a spokeswoman for the prime minister’s office gave no reason why the pair could not take the same plane.

“The Prime Minister and Ministers were pleased to be back in the Hunter region to make a $1 billion announcement that takes us one step closer to ensuring that the regions that have always supplied Australia with energy not to be left behind,” she said.

But Coalition housing spokesman Michael Sukkar said the photo, posted on a local Facebook community page, was “quite damning”.

“It’s a scandal any way you look at it,” he told 2GB, which first broke the story.

‘You are dealing with a situation where the Prime Minister and his minister are clearly using taxpayers’ money to live a life of luxury while flying around in private jets.

‘Now the Prime Minister has the right to use a private jet. And what would normally happen is that if a minister were to travel with the Prime Minister and make the same announcement or visit the same place, he would hitch a ride with the Prime Minister.

“But to take a second plane for themselves, I find something remarkable: a grotesque use of taxpayers’ money, at a time when … (people) have difficulty filling the shopping basket in the supermarket.”