Herald Sun

SHAMED INTO PAY­BACK

HOW THE HER­ALD SUN EX­POSED QUEEN BRON­WYN

- AN­NIKA SMETHURST an­nika.smethurst@news.com.au Politics · Melbourne · Geelong · John Bercow · Congress of the United States · Philippines Department of Finance · Australian Greens · Commonwealth of Nations · Bronwyn Bishop · Clifton Springs · Joe Hockey · Tony Burke · Inter-Parliamentary Union

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.”

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