South Australian Senator Don Farrell claimed taxpayer funding for a trip to last year’s AFL Grand Final despite his flights and accommodation being paid for by grocery chain Foodland.
Farrell, a powerbroker in the state’s Labor right faction, is the latest in a string of politicians who have paid back taxpayer-funded travel expenses claimed for attending occasions such as weddings and sporting events.
The difference in Farrell’s case is that his trip was paid for by a private company , yet he still claimed the expenses out of his MPs’ travel allowance, before realising the “administration error” and paying it back.
His office has confirmed the mistake, and also that he took four months to repay the expenses after discovering the error.
On September 28 and 29 last year, Farrell claimed $858 in official travelling allowance for two nights’ accommodation in Melbourne, according to his expenditure claims.
The expenses are listed as “Parliamentary Secretary – Official Business”. At the time, Farrell was the Parliamentary Secretary for Sustainability and Urban Water.
The senator’s office confirmed to InDaily that Farrell had corrected the mistake on his travel claim.
“Senator Farrell attended the AFL Grand Final on Saturday 29 September 2012 as a guest of Foodland,” Farrell’s office said.
“Senator Farrell represented the then Prime Minister at a function on the morning of the Grand Final.
“The travel allowance claim was incorrectly lodged because of an administration error.
“As the report correctly notes on page six, the adjustment was initiated by Senator Farrell as soon as he realised the error and he has since repaid the monies in full.”
The error was identified in October 2012 and the money was paid back in February 2013, Farrell’s office said.
Politicians are entitled to claim taxpayer-funded travelling allowance to cover accommodation costs when travelling for official business.
Farrell claimed the allowance despite the cost of part of his trip being funded by a private company, Foodland SA.
“Foodland chose to pay the cost of two nights’ accommodation and return economy flights for Senator Farrell and his wife,” his office told InDaily.
“This has been declared on Senator Farrell’s register of interests.”
The Chief Executive of Foodland Supermarkets, Russell Markham, said in a statement that “Don Farrell received an invitation for this event as an invited guest of the Foodland Group”.
“He was one of a group of approximately 100 business associates whom Foodland host each year at this event as part of our AFL sponsorship,” he said.
He said the total value of Foodland’s contribution to Farrell’s grand final trip was confidential.
Farrell’s register of interests notes that this isn’t the first time he has been flown to sporting events by private companies.
Foodland SA flew him to the AFL Grand Final in 2011 as well. The trip included two night’s stay at the Crown Metropol in Melbourne.
In August 2012 he “accepted hospitality from Qantas to watch the Bledisloe Cup” in Sydney.
Farrell lost his Federal Senate seat in this year’s election. However he won’t exit the Senate until July next year, when the new Senate will be appointed.
Yesterday new Federal Labor leader Bill Shorten appointed Farrell to his shadow front bench.
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