The age of entitlement has been over since February 2014, but stories keep coming out about pollies billing the taxpayer for things they perhaps should not have. Herewith, federal politicians for whom the sun might never set on the age of entitlement.
December 2011: In what seemed to begin a theme of politicians being caught out for charging taxpayers to attend weddings, Senator George Brandis was found to have charged taxpayers $1683 to attend the wedding of Michael Smith in December 2011. For those concerned, Brandis is said to have had a lovely time, with Smith noting Brandis had torn up the dance floor.
December 2015: Brandis claimed flights, Comcar and travel allowance for two days in Sydney during the 2015/16 New Year period. This was during the same period as three other government ministers billed taxpayers for travel to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s New Year’s Eve party.
September 2016: According to The Australian, Brandis chartered flights to remote western Queensland in September 2016 for himself, his son and a staff member. Brandis insists the taxpayer-funded trip to Quilpie and Charleville was for the purpose of opening the Quilpie and District Show and Rodeo and to attend meetings organised by local federal and state MPs with constituents. But The Australian also reported Quilpie mayor Stuart Mackenzie had said he understood one reason Brandis wanted to travel to those locations “was because of his family connections to the area”. Mackenzie went on to say it was after they had heard of Brandis’ plans to travel to Quilpie that he arranged for Brandis to attend meetings and open the show. The Australian estimates the cost of the flights to be around $12,000, but official numbers won’t be known until the relevant reports are released later this year.
January 2017: One Nation leader Senator Pauline Hanson denied her travel across Queensland last week was a taxpayer-funded campaign for her One Nation candidates in the upcoming state election. Hanson said her travel across Queensland was within the purposes of her job.
December 2013 and 2014: Sussan Ley had used taxpayer money for airfares and taxis to attend New Year’s Eve celebrations on the Gold Coast. Ley attended celebrations hosted by political donor and multimillionaire Sarina Russo.
May 2015: During a May 2015 Queensland where she made a $1.3 billion Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme announcement, Ley also purchased a $795,000 investment property on the Gold Coast with her partner. Ley said the apartment purchase was not “planned nor anticipated”.
Also during this time period, Ley chartered a flight from Canberra to Adelaide at a cost to the taxpayer of $7000. She would not explain why she could not fly Qantas.
March 2016: Ley charged taxpayers to charter a $12,000 VIP jet to the Gold Coast for an afternoon meeting in March 2016.
June 2011: Julie Bishop was reported to have attended a wedding in India as a guest of Gina Rinehart. Bishop claimed the trip was a study tour, which enabled her to claim the $3445 flight as an expense to the taxpayer.
January 2016: Bishop claimed had claimed attending the January 2016 Portsea Polo event as “official ministerial business” and charged taxpayers $2716.
January 2017: Bishop reneged on her appearance at the 2017 Portsea Polo event.
September 2013: Senator Mathias Cormann charged taxpayers $3533 for airfares to attend the 2013 AFL grand final with his wife, as a guest of the National Australia Bank. Cormann is in charge of the department that oversees politicians’ entitlements.
The ABC also reported that in a statement, Cormann’s office said he had “official commitments before, during and after the AFL grand final weekend”.
September 2013: David Bushby charged taxpayers $863 in airfares to attend the 2013 AFL grand final as a guest of National Australia Bank.
September 2013: The ABC revealed Trade Minister Steve Ciobo had also attended the 2013 AFL grand final as a guest of National Australia Bank. Ciobo charged taxpayers $1102 for an airfare to Melbourne for the game.
September 2013: The ABC reported Senator Mitch Fifield, who lives in Victoria, had also been a guest of National Australia Bank at the 2013 AFL grand final but had not charged taxpayers for travel to the game.
December 2015: Fifield was reported to be one of four government ministers to have charged taxpayers for travel to Sydney for the 2015 New Year period. Fifield claimed expenses for flights for himself and a family member.
June 2006: Bronwyn Bishop was found to have charged taxpayers for flights between Sydney and Albury, during which time she also attended Sophie Mirabella’s wedding.
November 2014: Bishop spent $5227.27 of taxpayer money on a helicopter flight from Melbourne to a golf course near Geelong for a Liberal Party fundraiser. The flight and ensuing criticism were labelled “choppergate”, and she resigned in August the following year.
April 2012: Then-environment minister Tony Burke defended his use of the family travel allowance when he used more than $12,000 of taxpayer money for a trip to Uluru with his family.
December 2009: Christopher Pyne and his family claimed in excess of $5000 for travel to Sydney on Christmas Day and for them to return home to Adelaide on New Year’s Day 2010. At the time, Pyne was the manager of opposition business and claimed to have travelled to Sydney for a meeting with then-opposition leader Tony Abbott.
A spokesman for Pyne told Fairfax Media “neither Mr Pyne nor his family have ever seen the New Year’s Eve Sydney fireworks”.
October 2011: Steve Irons was found to have charged taxpayers $2257 in airfares to and from his own wedding in October 2011. Irons said he had repaid the money for the travel between Perth and Melbourne to the Department of Finance. Irons was found to have also charged the taxpayer for his wife’s airfare to Perth after the wedding.
December 2015: The West Australian newspaper reported Irons attended a golf tournament on the Gold Coast for which he charged taxpayers. Irons said the travel to the Gold Coast was used to “study golf tourism opportunities”.
Irons was found to have also charged taxpayers for his wife to accompany him on the Gold Coast trip to study golf tourism opportunities. This made the total for the Gold Coast trip more than $4000, including three nights’ accommodation.
October 2011: Then-immigration minister Scott Morrison repaid the Department of Finance $354 after claiming travel allowance to attend a colleague’s wedding. The wedding was held in Melbourne and was believed to be that of Steve Irons.
October 2011: Then-shadow minister for defence, science, technology and personnel Stuart Robert was found to have also claimed a travel allowance for the same night in Melbourne as Scott Morrison. Robert repaid the $354 but his spokesman said Robert had been in Melbourne to attend a meeting.
June 2006: Tony Abbott repaid $1095 in 2013 after he had previously claimed the money in travel expenses for travelling to Sophie Mirabella’s 2006 wedding.
August 2006: Abbott was found to have claimed taxpayer money for travel to the 2006 wedding of Peter Slipper. Abbott later repaid the more than $600 he had previously claimed in expenses.
December 2011: Then-shadow minister for regional development, local government and water Barnaby Joyce was reported to have also, along with Brandis, attended Michael Smith’s wedding on the taxpayer’s dime.
Joyce reportedly read the poem Fair Dinkum Love by Kim Cockerell.
December 2015: Immigration Minister Peter Dutton was reported to have charged taxpayers for travel between Brisbane and Sydney to attend a New Year’s Eve party hosted by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
December 2015: Education Minister Simon Birmingham was reported to be the fourth minister to claim expenses for travel to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s 2015 New Year’s Eve party. Birmingham was reported to have claimed a single Cabcharge as his only expense for the night.