MP expenses and the use of taxpayer funds have come under increased scrutiny in recent weeks after former Speaker Bronwyn Bishop spent $5000 on a helicopter ride from Melbourne to Geelong.
More recently, ALP Tony Burke had taxpayers pay $8000 for his family to fly business class to Uluru, and education minister Christopher Pyne spent a similar amount flying his family business class from Adelaide to Canberra.
According to a report published in The Australian reports today, federal MP travel entitlements jumped 17% to $35.4 million last year, with the finance department forking out $5 million more than during the 2013 election year.
The most significant charges were seen in expenses related to family travel, which increased 13% above the previous four-year average and overseas travel rose 22% over the year to $6.2 million.
Politicians, and the public, are now calling for clarification around the guidelines for parliamentary travel expenses.
Bishop and Burke said their spending was within the parliamentary guidelines, but later acknowledged that it could be seen differently by the public.
“While I am completely confident that the questions, in particular, relating to Uluru and Cairns have been 100% within the rules, they have also been completely beyond community expectations,” Burke said.
Communications minister Malcolm Turnbull has since called for a smartphone app to be developed to help MPs effectively manage their expenses.
He said an app would bring the parliamentary entitlements system up to speed with the rest of the digital economy, saying the current procedure was “very much in the last century”.
Prime minister Tony Abbott has sought a review into the parliamentary entitlements system.
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