The Speaker of the Australian parliament, Liberal MP Bronwyn Bishop, has announced she will reimburse the $5,227.27 she billed taxpayers to take an 80km chartered helicopter from Melbourne to a Geelong golf club for a Liberal party function last year.
Treasurer Joe Hockey, who’s previously called for an end to “the age of entitlement”, said on Sydney radio this morning that the Speaker’s trip didn’t pass the “sniff test” and was “not a good look”.
“I think the Speaker needs to explain the matter,” Hockey said, adding that “the court of the people” would decide if her reasons were valid.
The cost, part of $400,000 in expenses Bishop spent in the last six months of 2014, including a $80,000 trip with two-week trip with two staff to Europe, was revealed during a Department of Finance audit of politicians’ expenses.
Details of the November 5 flight emerged yesterday, but the Speaker shed little light on the matter with her office only say that the trip was “done in accordance with the guidelines and within entitlement”. It was not known that she’d used a helicopter until photos emerged on Twitter last night, adding to the pressure for the NSW MP to explain the trip.
This afternoon, Bishop maintained that the travel, which needs to be approved by the special minister of state, was within the rules, but she would pay back the money “to remove any doubt”.
This is her statement:
“I have today written to the Special Minister of State indicating I will reimburse the Department of Finance the costs associated with the use of my charter allowance on 5 November 2014.
“Whilst my understanding is that this travel was conducted within the rules, to avoid any doubt, I will reimburse the full costs.”
Bishop is not the first Speaker to face questions about expenses for travel.
Former Queensland Liberal MP Peter Slipper, who defected to become Speaker under the Gillard government, was convicted last year over the alleged misuse of $954 in Cabcharge dockets to visit wineries around Canberra in 2010, during his time as speaker. The verdict was overturned on appeal earlier this year.
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