Federal Politics

Cigars, wine, flight upgrades and live pigs among gifts to politicians

They're the product that launched a thousand cartoons of Joe Hockey before his career as treasurer went up in smoke and came to symbolise how out of touch the Abbott government was with mainstream Australia.

But Cuban cigars remain a favourite indulgence among government ministers.

Joe Hockey enjoys a cigar with Mathias Cormann before the 2014 budget was announced.
Joe Hockey enjoys a cigar with Mathias Cormann before the 2014 budget was announced. Photo: Channel Nine

Updates to Parliament's register of interests over the summer break show Trade Minister Andrew Robb and Communications and Arts Minister Mitch Fifield both accepted $400 boxes of Cuban cigars as gifts.

Cuban ambassador Jose Manuel Galego Montano presented each minister with a box of five Cohiba Lanceros, said to be the favourite smoke of Cuba's ailing ex-president Fidel Castro.

Treasurer Scott Morrison does his Taylor Swift 'shake it off' dance move ahead of a morning radio interview last year.
Treasurer Scott Morrison does his Taylor Swift 'shake it off' dance move ahead of a morning radio interview last year. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

The $80 cigars come in a hand-made cedar box and, according to Cohiba, "deliver a rich and round smoke [with] dark honey and cedar notes seasoned with a gentle spiciness in the first and second third [of the cigar]".

Each minister received a traditional Cuban accompaniment with their stogies - a $37 bottle of Havana Club dark rum.


The gifts were among a raft of little luxuries accepted by MPs and updated on the register during the quiet December-January period.

Treasurer Scott Morrison and Labor's immigration spokesman Richard Marles received two tickets each to Taylor Swift concerts in Sydney and Melbourne, respectively.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop updated her register with the unusual gift of four live pigs from the Papua New Guinean government during her November visit. The pigs were re-gifted to local hospitals which have been able to sell the animals to raise funds for medical equipment, according to local media reports.

Former speaker Bronwyn Bishop accepted two tickets to the musical The Sound of Music and four nights of accommodation and transfers in Jerusalem as part of an Israel study tour in December. She paid her own air fares.

Labor backbencher Laurie Ferguson received first class tickets, accommodation and internal air fares on a visit to Azerbaijan, courtesy of the government of the former Soviet republic wedged between Iran and Armenia.

Mr Ferguson denied his trip was an endorsement of the autocratic regime in Azerbaijan, telling The Australian newspaper last week: "I didn't see it like a police state where our rooms were bugged, we were chauffeured in cars and they stopped us asking questions."

A number of politicians received $150-plus bottles of Penfolds wine from Qantas. They included Environment Minister Greg Hunt, Mr Robb, Labor's deputy leader Tanya Plibersek and shadow health spokeswoman Catherine King.

Those who accepted business or first class upgrades included Resources Minister Josh Frydenberg, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, Liberal MP Teresa Gambaro, and Labor's Mark Butler, Terri Butler and Jenny McAllister.

It was a sporting summer for some, with tickets to tennis, cricket or racing received by Speaker Tony Smith, Assistant Treasurer Kelly O'Dwyer, former small business minister Bruce Billson, Education Minister Simon Birmingham, Senator Fifield, Liberal Senator David Bushby and backbencher Ian Goodenough.

Labor's Jim Chalmers, Chris Hayes, Stephen Jones and Brendan O'Connor also enjoyed some corporate hospitality at the cricket or tennis.

Tasmanian Liberal Andrew Nikolic had a less rewarding Christmas-New Year.

According to the register, Mr Nikolic bought shares in Australian oil and gas producer Santos in December. The company was at the centre of a political storm last year after the Australian National University divested its holdings in Santos and other energy stocks as part of a less carbon intensive investment strategy.

At the time, Tony Abbott called ANU "stupid" for selling the shares.

Mr Nikolic bought Santos shares on December 10 when, ASX data shows, they were trading at $3.52. The stock plummeted to $2.48 during a rout on oil stocks in January but has since recovered partially to be trading at $3.08 on Friday.

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