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'Survivor' freebie costly for air force

CANBERRA, Australia (CNN) -- Australia's air force has been slated for giving contestants on the hit U.S. television show "Survivor" a free ride to the outback.

The A$300,000 (US$150,000) trip was not approved by the government and coincided with the cancellation of official operations due to financial constraints.

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Defence Minister Peter Reith said he had not approved the trip and branded it a waste of money.

"I'm not too happy about it. It's a waste of taxpayer's money," he told reporters.

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The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) sent a Caribou transport aircraft to fly contestants on the CBS reality series "Survivor: The Australian Outback" from Townsville in Australia's northeast to the country's arid center.

But the publicity stunt came under fire after news that a flight to mark the 100th anniversary of the RAAF's first overseas flight had been canceled for lack of funding.

Australia's defense budget was boosted in December by about A$360 million a year for the next 10 years, but the nation's military capability remains strained by two decades of cuts.

Reuters contributed to this report.



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