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Expenses scandal spreads to other ministers

Politics

Julie Bishop is the latest politician facing scrutiny over travel expense claims as calls for an overhaul of the entitlements system grow louder.

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The foreign minister charged taxpayers more than $2700 to attend a polo event last year on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula as a guest of Peroni and Jeep.

Her office told the ABC Bishop was there on official ministerial business in her capacity as foreign minister and deputy leader of the Liberal Party.

It’s also been revealed three others, including two government ministers, claimed thousands for a trip to the AFL grand final in 2013.

Among them was Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, whose department oversees politicians’ entitlements.

There are also reports cabinet minister Darren Chester settled on an investment property while on a taxpayer-funded trip to Melbourne, where he also attended the Australian Open tennis.

It follows the scandal around Sussan Ley, who was forced to stand aside as health minister pending investigations into trips she made to the Gold Coast.

On one of them, she bought an $800,000 apartment.

The Federal Government has vowed to make changes to the entitlements in the first half of 2017 based on recommendations from a review published early last year.

Greens leader Richard Di Natale has reiterated calls for a national anti-corruption body that will in part scrutinise politicians’ expense claims.

Crossbencher Nick Xenophon also wants an independent watchdog, as well as real-time disclosure of claims and harsher penalties for those who exploit rules.

One Nation leader Pauline Hanson told the Seven Network today the politicians should pay back the money as well as copping a “heavy fine”.

“We have to be responsible for the money we spend on our travel or flights that are taken and not to visit these functions that are funded for donations to the political party or their campaigns. It is wrong.”

Liberal Democratic senator David Leyonhjelm said the primary purpose of the expense has to be related to the job.

“We need to be very conscious of the fact it is not our money we are spending,” he told Seven.

“The committee has recommended that the word ‘entitlements’ be dropped and the phrase ‘expense of jobs’ be used instead,” he said.

Hanson said she had not seen the government’s recommendations made by an independent review 11 months ago after Bronwyn Bishop’s expenses scandal.

AAP

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