‘ Sorry’ Bishop fails to si­lence her crit­ics

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - ROB HARRIS

TONY Ab­bott has or­dered a foren­sic ex­am­i­na­tion of Bron­wyn Bishop’s decades- old travel ex­pense claims af­ter the fed­eral par­lia­men­tary Speaker was forced into a grov­el­ling apol­ogy yesterday.

The em­bat­tled Speaker apol­o­gised for her “er­ror of judg­ment” for charg­ing the public $ 5000 for a lux­ury he­li­copter trip and ex­penses claimed to at­tend at least three col­leagues’ wed­dings.

As pres­sure built on the Prime Min­is­ter from se­nior col­leagues to re­move the vet­eran from her fed­eral par­lia­men­tary role, Ms Bishop said sorry to vot­ers.

“I want to apol­o­gise to the Aus­tralian peo­ple for my er­ror of judg­ment and to say sorry,” the Speaker said.

“I love this coun­try and I feel very, very sorry that I’ve let the Aus­tralian peo­ple down.

“There­fore I will be work­ing very hard to en­sure that I can again make sure that things are be­ing done and look right as well as be­ing right.”

But her fu­ture in the chair re­mains in doubt, with many Coali­tion col­leagues be­liev­ing her apol­ogy had come too late.

Some be­lieve the scan­dal has done per­ma­nent dam­age to the Ab­bott Gov­ern­ment in mar­ginal elec­torates.

Ms Bishop agreed to re­pay the $ 5227, plus a fine of $ 1300, for her chop­per flight in Novem­ber last year for a Vic­to­rian elec­tion cam­paign fundraiser at Clifton Spring Golf Club.

In the past week News Corp has re­vealed she claimed travel al­lowances to at­tend the 2007 wed­ding of Lib­eral MP Teresa Gam­baro in Bris­bane and the 1999 wed­ding of Lib­eral power­bro­ker Michael Kroger to Anne Pea­cock.

She had pre­vi­ously re­fused to re­pay $ 600 of travel costs to fly from Syd­ney to Al­bury to at­tend the wed­ding of for­mer Lib­eral MP So­phie Mirabella in Wan­garatta.

Ms Bishop said she has asked Mr Ab­bott to have the Depart­ment of Fi­nance in­quiry into all her pre­vi­ous travel ex­penses and agreed to re­pay costs for “all the wed­dings”. Three of her char­ter flights at­tend party fundrais­ing

to events are in­ves­ti­gated.

Ms Bishop, who had pre­vi­ously re­fused to say sorry, con­ceded she “should have said it” ear­lier.

Gov­ern­ment front­benchers Joe Hockey, Kelly O’Dwyer and Paul Fletcher of­fered luke­warm sup­port for Ms Bishop yesterday.

She is likely to face a vote of no con­fi­dence in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives when it re­turns next month.

La­bor leader Bill Shorten said Ms Bishop was “only say­ing sorry to save her job”.

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