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Minister defends taxpayer-funded sports trips

Politics

Cabinet minister Steve Ciobo has staunchly defended politicians’ use of taxpayer dollars to attend sporting and corporate events.

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Ciobo claimed more than $1000 on airfares for a trip to the 2013 AFL grand final as a guest of National Australia Bank, along with two other ministers.

“The notion and suggestion that because ministers or parliamentary secretaries or others are invited to go along to these events, specifically by businesses and organisations who are taking the opportunity to showcase themselves there and to take the time to have a conversation in relation to important matters, absolutely is work-related,” he told ABC radio today.

He said he was invited to the grand final not because he was Steve Ciobo, but because he was parliamentary secretary to the treasurer at the time.

He admitted he uses a taxpayer-funded car to go to sporting matches in his Queensland electorate “and I think people expect that”.

“I can certainly say as an Australian, I would love to see Australia’s prime minister – I don’t care whether it’s Liberal or Labor – at a key game … between the Wallabies and All Blacks.”

Ciobo also defended Malcolm Turnbull’s silence on the issue of entitlements since expense revelations that led to Sussan Ley standing aside as health minister.

He said the acting Special Minister of State Kelly O’Dwyer has addressed media and that the government’s made it clear it intends to move legislation to reform workplace-related expenses for parliamentarians.

“I don’t believe the prime minister needs to come out on each and every single issue that’s running each and every single day,” he said.

But independent MP Andrew Wilkie is somewhat sceptical.

He said the government flagged last year that it would implement the 36 recommendations from a review into politicians’ entitlements.

“Words are pretty worthless in Canberra these days, but hopefully we will see tangible reform,” he told ABC TV.

“If there isn’t more talk and speedy action by the government, then I and (the) crossbenchers will try to move regulatory reform ourselves.”

On top of acting on those recommendations, Mr Wilkie wants a full audit of parliamentary travel during the current and previous terms, and a requirement that politicians list all substantive activity, both public and private, they conduct on a trip.

He has also called for the Australian Federal Police to get involved in cases of wrongdoing.

“Although I’m calling for regulatory reform, I’m also not letting people off the hook here. There’s been some terrible judgment and quite improper spending going on.”

– AAP

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