Eric Abetz is a member of the Liberal Party and a former Senator for Tasmania, having previously served as Minister for Employment and Leader of the Opposition in the Senate. Mr. Abetz 28 consecutive years in the Senate came to an end as a result of the 2022 Australian Federal Election with Tammy Tyrell of the Jacqui Lambie Network taking his seat.
Attendance of Mining Industry Gala at Taxpayer Expense
In June of 2020 it was revealed that Mr. Abetz had billed the Australian taxpayer $3000 to attend a "glitzy gala dinner" in August of 2018. Mr. Abetz claimed both return domestic flights from Hobart to Melbourne and commonwealth vehicles for his family so they could attend the Australian Mines and Metals Association (AMMA).
The event was described as the "industry’s biggest celebration of 2018” and featured featured performances from the soprano Marina Prior and the Australian Qantas Children’s Choir. Former Prime Minister, John Howard, was also in attendance and gave a speech on industrial relations where he acknowledged Mr. Abetz's attendance. Mr. Abetz has no ministerial connection to either the mining industry or industrial relations.
Speaking to The Guardian, Mr. Abetz stated that he attended the event because mining is important to the economy of his Tasmanian constituents and because a Tasmanian company was a founding member of the AMMA:
“Mining is a considerable export earner for Tasmania. It’s an important part of our economy, stacks of people are employed by it. There’s no question that it was within my electoral and parliamentary representative duties, having been invited to go there, I was appropriately recognised for being there as an elected representative.”