Bishop put on notice by PM
PRIME Minister Tony Abbott has placed Speaker Bronwyn Bishop on “probation” after she spent thousands of taxpayer dollars on chartered flights to Liberal Party fundraisers.
Ms Bishop has come under fire after News Corp Australia revealed she billed taxpayers $ 5200 for a helicopter flight from Melbourne to Geelong last November.
Five days later, Ms Bishop took a second chartered flight to a party fundraiser in the NSW town of Young.
Mr Abbott said he was unhappy about Ms Bishop’s actions, which he described as “a serious lapse of judgment”.
“I can really understand why people are unhappy about this. Frankly, I’m unhappy about it as well,” Mr Abbott said.
“Obviously the action she was responsible for, with the helicopter, was out of line ... like everyone who has done something like this, inevitably for a period of time they are on probation.”
Despite the Speaker privately losing the support of many of her colleagues, Mr Abbott stood by his political mentor yesterday saying she had “copped a justifiable hiding”.
But Ms Bishop, who has agreed to repay $ 5200 plus a $ 1300 penalty for the helicopter trip, could still be pushed from her role with Labor considering a no- confidence motion when Parliament resumes in August. One Labor source told News Corp Australia the party would use “every tool at our disposal” to knock Ms Bishop out of the Speaker’s chair.
More senior members of the Coalition distanced themselves from the saga yesterday, with Social Services Minister Scott Morrison suggesting he would have apologised if involved in a similar expenses scandal.
And Assistant Infrastructure Minister Jamie Briggs said attending a party fundraiser on a taxpayer- funded flight wasn’t a reasonable use of entitlements. “For me, I wouldn’t do it,” he said.
Labor has written to Mr Abbott seeking clarification on Ms Bishop’s probation, asking how long it will last and what penalties will apply if she breaches any conditions.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Ms Bishop had to resign.
“Tony Abbott needs to show some courage, demonstrate some leadership, and tell Bronwyn Bishop that it’s time to go,” Mr Shorten said.
“Every day this saga goes on, Bronwyn Bishop’s position is increasingly untenable and now it would appear that Mr Abbott is digging himself a hole, too.”
But Mr Shorten is now under fire for a travel claim he made during the final days of Labor’s 2013 leadership campaign when he billed taxpayers more than a thousand dollars to attend an ALP fundraiser.