Bishop polo trip joins gravy train

The Dominion Post - - World -

AUS­TRALIA: Julie Bishop is the lat­est Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment min­is­ter fac­ing scru­tiny over tax­payer-funded travel claims, amid grow­ing calls for an over­haul of politi­cians’ travel ex­penses.

The for­eign af­fairs min­is­ter charged tax­pay­ers nearly A$2800 (NZ$2955) to at­tend the Port­sea Polo event on Vic­to­ria’s Morn­ing­ton Penin­sula in Jan­uary last year, as a guest of beer maker Peroni and car com­pany Jeep.

Bishop’s of­fice yes­ter­day de­fended her ex­pense claims to at­tend the ex­clu­sive event. ’’The min­is­ter was in­vited and at­tended in her of­fi­cial ca­pac­ity as Min­is­ter for For­eign Af­fairs and Deputy Leader of the Lib­eral Party.’’

Bishop is re­port­edly plan­ning to at­tend the event again this week­end with her part­ner David Pan­ton, as a guest of Ital­ian car gi­ant Alfa Romeo.

It has also been re­vealed that three other MPs – two Turn­bull gov­ern­ment min­is­ters and a Tas­ma­nian se­na­tor – claimed thou­sands of dol­lars in ex­penses to go to the 2013 AFL grand fi­nal.

Fi­nance Min­is­ter Mathias Cor­mann, whose de­part­ment over­sees politi­cians’ tax­payer­funded travel en­ti­tle­ments, charged A$3533 for air­fares for him and his wife to at­tend the game.

Trade Min­is­ter Steve Ciobo and Lib­eral se­na­tor David Bushby also billed tax­pay­ers for their flights.

In­fra­struc­ture and Trans­port Min­is­ter Dar­ren Ch­ester set­tled on an in­vest­ment property while on a tax­payer-funded trip to Mel­bourne, where he also at­tended the Aus­tralian Open ten­nis tour­na­ment.

Ac­cord­ing to Ch­ester’s reg­is­ter of in­ter­ests, he bought a twobed­room unit in Ivan­hoe, in north­east Mel­bourne, while on of­fi­cial busi­ness on Jan­uary 27, 2016. Ch­ester, then as­sis­tant de­fence min­is­ter, also claimed a travel al­lowance.

The new rev­e­la­tions fol­low the grow­ing scandal around Health Min­is­ter Sus­san Ley, who was forced to stand aside amid Fi­nance De­part­ment in­ves­ti­ga­tions of trips she made to the Gold Coast, in­clud­ing one dur­ing which she bought an A$800,000 apart­ment.

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment has vowed to make changes to the en­ti­tle­ments in the first half of 2017, based on rec­om­men­da­tions from a re­view pub­lished early last year.

Green Party leader Richard Di Natale re­it­er­ated calls for a na­tional anti-cor­rup­tion body that would in part scru­ti­nise politi­cians’ ex­pense claims.

Se­nate cross­bencher Nick Xenophon also wants an in­de­pen­dent watch­dog, as well as real-time dis­clo­sure of claims and harsher penal­ties for those who ex­ploit the rules.

Asked about the travel ex­penses con­tro­versy yes­ter­day, Hu­man Ser­vices Min­is­ter Alan Tudge said the gov­ern­ment was tak­ing the 2016 re­view se­ri­ously and had al­ready im­ple­mented three of its rec­om­men­da­tions.

‘‘That’s go­ing to be pro­vid­ing greater def­i­ni­tion of what a le­git­i­mate work ex­pense is.’’ – Fairfax

PHOTO: REUTERS

Julie Bishop says she at­tended the ex­clu­sive event in Vic­to­ria, at a cost of A$2800, as min­is­ter of for­eign af­fairs.

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