A former Helloworld executive who met Australia’s ambassador to the United States Joe Hockey to discuss embassy travel arrangements said the meeting was set up by the company’s chief executive and Liberal Party treasurer Andrew Burnes.
Mr Hockey met former Helloworld executive Russell Carstensen in April 2017, along with other embassy staff, about the travel needs of his post.
Mr Carstensen contacted a Senate committee, which had been grilling Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) officials over the meeting, to give his version of events.
In a letter he said Mr Burnes set up the meeting with Mr Hockey, saying “Hockey owes him”.
Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne refused to comment on the matter after being questioned by Labor senator Penny Wong.
“Senator, you’re reading an email from a third party,” Senator Payne said.
Earlier this week it was revealed Helloworld had not charged Finance Minister Mathias Cormann for family flights to Singapore last year.
Senator Cormann said on three occasions he had contacted Mr Burnes to arrange flights for family holidays.
He insisted there was no connection between his relationship with Mr Burnes and Helloworld receiving a multimillion-dollar government contract.
Labor has since tried to link past and present Liberal Party MPs with another government travel contract that is currently out for tender.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday told question time Mr Hockey had acted appropriately, citing a statement Helloworld released on Wednesday.
“What the statement to the Australian Stock Exchange says, from Helloworld Travel Limited, is that at no time has Ambassador Hockey or Helloworld CEO Andrew Burnes discussed the DFAT,” he said.
“Neither Mr Hockey or Mr Burnes have any involvement in the tender process.”