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Renewed push for pollie perks overhaul

Politics

At least two senators will renew their push to clean up entitlements for federal politicians when parliament returns next month as the furore over Sussan Ley's travel claims continues to escalate.

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Greens leader Richard Di Natale and crossbencher Nick Xenophon have vowed to reintroduce legislation this year after Ley stood aside as health minister pending an investigation into taxpayer-funded trips to Queensland.

Ley is facing two inquiries over travels to the Gold Coast, including for two New Year’s Eve celebrations at the invitation of businesswoman Sarina Russo.

It’s also been revealed four ministers billed taxpayers almost $7000 to attend a private NYE function hosted by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in 2015.

Among them were Immigration Minister Peter Dutton and Attorney-General George Brandis, according to SBS.

Xenophon first drafted laws to overhaul the rules around expenses two years ago but failed to get them passed.

He wants an independent watchdog to oversee the system, real-time disclosure of claims, and harsher penalties for those who exploit the rules.

“I’d like to think that there’ll be a keener interest on the part of my colleagues on both sides from the major parties to consider this seriously because clearly what they’ve done to date doesn’t work,” he told ABC radio today.

“This is why so many Australians hate so many politicians.”

Di Natale said the scandal around Ley reinforced the need for a federal anti-corruption watchdog, which he proposes would include an independent parliamentary adviser to help make decisions on entitlement claims and audit them when necessary.

He believes most MPs do the right thing, but some don’t and it’s undermining Australia’s democracy.

“We’ll continue to see these scandals if we don’t get serious about this,” Di Natale told the ABC.

Ley is refusing to comment on fresh allegations her impulse Gold Coast purchase wasn’t the first time she’d gone apartment shopping on taxpayer-funded trips.

The Herald Sun reports Ley made an unsuccessful bid on a Gold Coast property in 2014.

The property owners Adrienne and Stewart McEachran claim Ley and her partner inspected the home on September 8 before making an offer, which was declined in October.

Government documents show Ley spent more than $1000 on flights to and from Coolangatta between September 5 and September 8.

She claimed car costs of $271 and $720 for two nights of travel allowance during that time.

A spokesman for Ley said it would be “quite improper” to comment on the latest allegations.

“It’s actually out of her hands,” he told AAP.

“All of her expenses and travel to the Gold Coast are being looked at independently and we’ll await the finding.”

She insists she’s broken no rules.

It followed revelations she bought a $795,000 apartment from a Liberal National Party donor during a taxpayer-funded trip to the Gold Coast and billed taxpayers to attend New Year’s Eve celebrations on the Gold Coast in 2013 and 2014, hosted by businesswoman and Liberal Party donor Sarina Russo, who’s won multi-million dollar contracts with the Federal Government.

Labor insists Ley should be sacked.

AAP

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