Mar 6, 2014

Royal rates: what you’ll pay for Will and Kate’s Aussie adventure

Will, Kate and royal celebri-baby George will visit Australia next month. Did you know that Aussie taxpayers are going to pay the full cost of the trip?

Cathy Alexander — Freelance journalist and PhD candidate in politics at the University of Melbourne

Cathy Alexander

Freelance journalist and PhD candidate in politics at the University of Melbourne

An Australian cannot be our head of state. But we do have a role in vice-regal affairs; we pick up the bill when the head of state's family comes to visit. The media has reported with delight the news that Prince William, Kate Middleton and boy George will tour Australia next month. What didn't feature in those stories is that by custom Australian taxpayers pay for it all -- and Crikey estimates the 10-day trip will come in at $2 million or more. No expense has been spared. The royals will be accompanied by an entourage of 11 people, including Kate's hairdresser, three press officers, an orderly and a nanny. The group of 14 will be ferried to and around Australia by special air force jets. So when they pop from Sydney to Brisbane for the day, an RAAF plane will take them there, wait, and bring them back again. The royals will not take any commercial flights, except for the flight back to London. Will and Co will stay in official vice-regal mansions in Sydney and Canberra, and in commercial accommodation near Uluru. Official receptions have been organised around the country (see the itinerary here). The royals will tour four cities (Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Canberra) plus Uluru and the Blue Mountains from April 16. That means at least seven RAAF flights with a total flying time of 16 hours. Based on estimates of the cost of chartering a RAAF jet, at $17,000 per hour of flying time, Crikey calculates the royal party's flights alone will cost the Australian taxpayer at least $272,000. When British royals come on official visits the federal government pays for flights, accommodation, meals, phone calls, minibar bills, and even the presents the royals give out (which can cost $15,000). State governments cough up, too. Organising a day trip for a royal can cost $100,000 an hour, e.g. when Queen Elizabeth visited Melbourne in 2011. The British royals have been availing themselves of free Australian hospitality with enthusiasm. Since 2005 (and including the upcoming April visit), 10 British royals have visited: Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip, Princess Anne, Prince Edward, Charles, Camilla, William, Harry, Kate and George. It's been estimated each trip cost between $350,000 and $1.8 million. So what will the upcoming trip cost? It's hard to say because details are kept quiet. The federal Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet pays the bills, and its Ceremonial and Hospitality Branch (CERHOS, that is) is in charge of the details. Crikey asked PM&C what the cost estimate of the upcoming visit was, but they wouldn't say. "[W]hen all costs for the visit have been fully acquitted, the details of those costs are made available to Parliament," a spokesperson said. So we turned to budget estimates hearings for previous royal visits. Queen Elizabeth visited Australia for five days in 2006 with Prince Philip, taking in Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney. A 2007 estimates hearing heard that cost the federal government $1.8 million (excluding state government contributions). The federal cost was so high it blew the "state occasions and official visits" budget. Frank Leverett from CERHOS told the 2007 hearing:
"Royal visits are always a high-expenditure item. The total was not significantly different from any other visit ..."
There's another clue in the Queen's most recent visit, in October 2011 (10 days with Prince Philip). In the revised PM&C budget for 2011-12, "state occasions and official visits" were unusually high at $5.85 million. The estimated cost over the forward estimates averaged $3.41 million, so something cost an extra $2.44 million. We don't know how much of it paid for the Queen's visit, but it's fair to assume some did. Given the upcoming royal visit by Will and Kate is twice as long as the Queen's $1.8 million 2006 trip, will visit more places, and is in 2014 dollars (not 2006), it can be estimated the cost of the trip will be at least $2 million. It's possible the federal government's share will be less, and the state governments' share more, than the Queen's 2006 visit. It's unlikely taxpayers will ever know the full cost of Will and Kate's visit as no one seems to have added up federal and state bills for previous royal visits (and governments make it hard to do so). The high cost of RAAF flights may be cleaved off to a different section of the budget, as with running the Governor-General's residences for the royals.

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21 thoughts on “Royal rates: what you’ll pay for Will and Kate’s Aussie adventure

  1. Liamj

    Tony Abbottoir: “The age of entitlement is over [unless you’re a Tory inbred or someone who enjoys grovelling to them]”.

  2. Dez Paul

    Yawn. Just because some mythical watery tart in a lake allegedly handed their ancestors some allegedly magical sword, we now must pay for them to reign over us. They need to get real jobs, notwithstanding that they might be good people to hang out with.

    I imagine Toady, madame speaker, old flinty, Menzie’s ghost, et al are creaming their collective jeans at the opportunity to bow, scrape and curtsy to these foreigners. Expect Toady not to mention Kate’s s ex appeal……

  3. Patrick Irwin

    Remember a certain Tony Abbot led the monarchist back-lash, aided by a Howard smoke screen, successfully confusing the issue of nationality of head of state with our Constitution.
    The English Royals may be nice people, with noble origins in Germany, Austria and Greece, and recently even from England, but a head of state of this great country would be more appropriately sought from among our first nation’s elders.
    We need a person of dignity, humility and compassion, so I nominate Archie Roach; for our first Elder of Australia. And I would encourage him to continue using songs, rather than speeches. Open Parliament with aid of sticks & didge?

  4. graybul

    Must everything be brought down to a $ focus? Surely Crikey you could have ‘flicked past’ both this storyline and one-sided dollar valuation chestnut, in the sure and certain knowledge the Murdock Media will first beat drum loudly. . and, having assured appropriate attention on visit, ie increased readership, will then shine a forensic light on costs designed to bolster republicanism.

  5. Pedantic, Balwyn

    @Liamj, so mean; let Tony bask in the reflected glory of these affronts to democracy, while the rest of us think that he, David Flint et al of the Monarchist persuasion are sycophantic courtiers, well past their use by date.

  6. Aphra

    I read somewhere some years ago that the Australian taxpayer also pays for the royal clothes made for and during royal visits. Is this still the case?

  7. Aphra

    ‘…made for and worn during royal visits…


    A couple of past Prime Ministers’ (the one person) travel expenses will make this Royal Progress look like a cheap picnic. But at least many Australians enjoy a Royal visit – and it may even generate some tourism – so perhaps it’s a good waste of money; surely it’s not fun for the main stars.

  9. BruceHassan

    Ho hum. I thought Crikey could do better than lead with such a trashy story. But, as you’ve decreed the royals are ‘foreigners’, I suppose that makes it OK. Surely, the logical conclusion would be to demand the Duke & Duchess (she stopped being Kate Middleton when she married, but I suppose as they’re only ‘foreigners’, who cares about accuracy) should be seized and transferred to Manus or Nauru, as that would be so much cheaper. Or would it? Sometimes Crikey, you are no better than the surly drivel that emanates from the Murdoch and Fairfax factories when it comes to reporting on royalty in Australia.

  10. zut alors

    Greg Barnes calls royal visits “expensive holidays.” Hardly. I imagine they are rather arduous for the royal family & involve meeting/tolerating endless puffed-up officials. Brief moments of interaction with the public provide some candid relief but otherwise it’s duty, duty, duty.

    Frankly the royal visits are infinitely better value for taxpayers (many of whom enjoy these stints) than the wildly expensive waste-of-time-exercise known as the G20. Coming to Brisbane in November with 20 political heads & approx 4,000 delegates (aka hangers on). We have no idea what the exorbitant cost will be to taxpayers but we do know there will be a suspension of Civil Liberties (resulting from the G20 Safety & Security Bill passed by the Qld parliament in 2013 to cover the event).

    And unlike the royals, the G20 will achieve sod all. Nor will it raise a single smile from the people who are paying for it. Quite the opposite, it will create chaos & bad blood. Give us the royal blue blood any day in preference.

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