SHAMED INTO PAYBACK
HOW THE HERALD SUN EXPOSED QUEEN BRONWYN
SPEAKER Bronwyn Bishop will repay more than $6500 for a taxpayer-funded helicopter flight she took to a Liberal Party fundraiser, reducing the threat of possible criminal charges for making a false declaration.
Under intense pressure from the public and members of her own party, Ms Bishop agreed to reimburse the cost of the return trip from Melbourne to Geelong, but maintained it had been incurred in accordance with guidelines.
“Whilst my understanding is that this travel was conducted within the rules, to avoid any doubt, I will reimburse the full costs,” she said.
As the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ms Bishop may take charter flights for “office holder duties” only, and must sign a form declaring that she understands that providing misleading information is a serious criminal offence.
Ms Bishop will also have to pay 25 per cent loading on top of the charter cost, following changes to expenses introduced by the Abbott Government in 2013.
On Tuesday the Herald Sun revealed that the Speaker charged taxpayers $5227 for the private return flight to Clifton Springs Golf Club, despite the 100km trip taking only about one hour to drive.
It is understood she took the charter service to attend a fundraiser for state Liberal candidate Ron Nelson.
After the article appeared in the Herald Sun, Ms Bishop said she took the charter service because of her “concern for the country”, but maintained that the helicopter trip had been taken “in accordance with the guidelines and within entitlement”.
Coalition MPs distanced themselves from the controversy yesterday.
Treasurer Joe Hockey admitted that he understood why the public did not approve of the trip.
“The Speaker needs to explain the matter,” he told Sydney radio station 2UE.
Details of Ms Bishop’s helicopter flight were released by the Department of Finance last month as part of a six-month audit into expenses clocked up by serving and former federal MPs.
The report also revealed that taxpayers forked out almost $90,000 for a twoweek European trip Ms Bishop took last year, partly aimed at securing the top job at the Inter-Parliamentary Union.
The Greens have written to the Commonwealth AuditorGeneral asking for a full review of Ms Bishop’s expenses.
The manager of Opposition business, Tony Burke, has called on Ms Bishop to provide a copy of the form she signed confirming that the helicopter trip had been for official business.
“No one makes an honest mistake to accidentally turn up to a Liberal Party fundraiser by helicopter,” Mr Burke said.
“The repayment on this one doesn’t end it.”