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