Federal health minister Sussan Ley has agreed to repay the taxpayers’ money used on a trip to the Gold Coast in which she bought a $795,000 apartment.
Last week Ley confirmed she purchased the property – which she described as an “impulse buy” – while on the Gold Coast in May 2015 after she travelled to Brisbane for an announcement at Wesley Hospital about funding to list medicines on the PBS.
On Sunday afternoon Ley said she has always sought to apply “higher standards” for herself in using taxpayers’ funds and will pay for the travel costs incurred on that trip, and any penalties for erroneous claims, as well as two other claims an examination of her travel records brought to her attention.
The department will also review all her ministerial travel to the Gold Coast.
“While attending an auction was not the reason for my visit to Queensland or the Gold Coast, I completely understand this changed the context of the travel undertaken,” she said.
“The distinction between public and private business should be as clear as possible when dealing with taxpayers’ money.
“I have spoken to the Prime Minister and he agrees that this claim does not meet the high standards he expects of Ministers. I apologise for the error of judgement.”
The trip in question took place in May 2015 and saw Ley and her partner charge taxpayers $3949 for flights during the two-day trip, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
The other claims Ley referred to include accommodation in the Gold Coast where she should have stayed in Brisbane, a flight from Coolangatta to Canberra in June 2015.
Here’s her statement in full.
I have spent the past 48 hours examining my travel records.
I travelled to Brisbane on 9 May 2015 to make a major announcement about the availability of new medicines at a specialist breast cancer clinic and to meet with patients in Brisbane and on the Gold Coast. As I had to be in Canberra on Sunday 10 May I decided to stay the night of 9 May on the Gold Coast rather than incur considerable extra expense by flying back to Albury and then to Canberra the following day. This travel is within the rules provided.
However, I have always sought to apply higher standards for myself in using valuable taxpayers’ funds.
While attending an auction was not the reason for my visit to Queensland or the Gold Coast, I completely understand this changed the context of the travel undertaken. The distinction between public and private business should be as clear as possible when dealing with taxpayers’ money.
I have spoken to the Prime Minister and he agrees that this claim does not meet the high standards he expects of Ministers. I apologise for the error of judgement.
Tomorrow I will ask the Department of Finance to invoice me for the costs for the car and travel allowance claimed on Saturday 9 May 2015, including the relevant penalty applied to erroneous claims.
My examination of my travel records has also brought to my attention two other claims for accommodation on the Gold Coast in 2014 and 2015 where I should have stayed and claimed in Brisbane, as well as a single one-way flight from Coolangatta to Canberra in June 2015.
I will also ask the Department of Finance to invoice me the costs of these claims, as well as the relevant penalty.
In the interests of total transparency, I will ask the department to review all my ministerial travel to the Gold Coast.
Last year the former Speaker of the Australian parliament, Liberal MP Bronwyn Bishop, resigned after she was forced to 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.
She was then dumped as Liberal candidate for her Sydney seat of Mackellar, ending her career in Australian politics.
More recently, Victorian corrections minister Steve Herbert resigned for using his taxpayer-funded chauffeur-driven car to transport his pet dogs between his Melbourne home and his holiday house.
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