The travel expenses of health minister Sussan Ley have come under scrutiny after it was revealed that she bought an apartment on the Gold Coast while on a taxpayer-funded trip.
Since then she has stepped aside from her role until an investigation into her spending is complete.
While she maintains that she has not broken any rules, and will repay the trip in question, and others deemed inappropriate, analysis of her travel entitlements by The Australian has revealed that in a three-and-a-half year period, Ley has charged taxpayers almost $65,000 in travel expenses.
That includes 22 trips to the Gold Coast between January 2013 and June 2016, including 37 nights when she claimed a travel allowance.
When announcing that she would step aside during the investigation, Ley referenced next year’s Commonwealth Games, a major medical school and the Gold Coast as Australia’s sixth largest population centre as reasons for her interest in the city.
Her partner also owns a bin-cleaning business there. He joined Ley on 13 of the 37 nights, with the expenses claimed under family traveller entitlements.
The expenses include taxpayer-funded trips to the Gold Coast for New Year’s Eve in 2013 and 2014.
Ley said she was attended by a “prominent Queensland businesswoman”. It was later revealed that the businesswoman was BRW rich-list Sarina Russo.
Russo’s business, Job Access, has donated as much as $44,000 to the federal Liberal Party in the past, and was awarded two multi-million dollar tenders in 2015 by the federal Department of Education and Training.
According to The Australian, Ley’s visits to the Gold Coast started in 2013, when she was opposition spokesman for employment participation, childcare and early childhood.
In that year she made seven trips to the Gold Coast at a cost of $13,210.28 and claimed a travel allowance for 15 nights.
And in 2014, she made four trips at a cost of $9827.85 and claimed the travel allowance for 11 nights.
On one of those trips, the Herald Sun has reported Ley inspected another Gold Coast property — nine months before the purchase in question — claiming $2,000 in travel costs from the trip.
In a bizarre rant on Sky News on Monday, former speaker Bronwyn Bishop showed her support for Ley by blaming “socialists” and “dogs”.
“She should not be attacked like people behaving like a pack of dogs,” she said. “I do know that there are socialists out there who want to attack free enterprise and anyone who sticks up for it.”
Not that it carries a lot of weight with the electorate after Bishop’s own political career ended following an expenses scandal.
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