Former PM Tony Abbott has spent at least $2500 of public money this year on trips used to attend Liberal Party fundraisers and member rallies, according to the latest MPs’ expenses reports released this week.
Four travel claims listed as ‘Former Prime Minister – Official Business’ appear in Abbott’s expenditure statement for January to March this year, covering visits to Bateman’s Bay, Launceston and Melbourne (twice).
Cross-referencing the dates to Abbott’s Twitter account reveals that at least three of the four visits happened on the same day as Tony Abbott attended a Liberal party event in the same place.
Using parliamentary travel allowances for private or political party purposes is explicitly disallowed. Costs may only be claimed for travel in connection with parliamentary business, with the rules specifically stating the allowance is not to be used for party business.
In at least one case it seems Mr Abbott has tied in a non-party event into the trip in addition to the fundraiser, presumably to help justify dumping the cost on taxpayers.
Tony Abbott’s party events on the public purse
Trip 1: Bateman’s Bay, 18 Feb 2017
Event: Gilmore Liberal Party meeting
Cost to taxpayer: $663.72 (travel allowance and car travel)
Nights spent in Bateman’s Bay: 1
Non-party events also attended: Tied in visit to businesses with local Liberal MP
I appreciated the opportunity to thank the Gilmore Liberals for helping reelect Ann Sudmalis last year. Well done! pic.twitter.com/8R3OISvY5f
— Tony Abbott (@TonyAbbottMHR) February 18, 2017
Trip 2: Launceston, 21 Feb 2017
Event: Tasmanian Liberal Party Northern HQ event
Cost to taxpayer: $990.12 (travel allowance and flights)
Nights spent in Launceston: 1
Non-party events also attended: Unclear / not known
— Tony Abbott (@TonyAbbottMHR) February 21, 2017
Trip 3: Melbourne, 24 Mar 2017
Event: Liberal party fundraiser (Victorian Business Branch and Deakin 200 Club)
Cost to taxpayer: $957.37 (travel allowance and multiple car journeys)
Nights spent in Melbourne: 1
Non-part events also attended: Unclear / not known
Packed to the rafters at Secret Kitchen Melbourne addressing the Victorian Business Branch and Deakin 200 Club. pic.twitter.com/XzW6gbhq1P
— Tony Abbott (@TonyAbbottMHR) March 24, 2017
A similar trip to Melbourne also took place on 19-20 Feb 2017, however I can’t find any details of a related party (or non-party) event attended by Tony Abbott at this time.
I’ve asked Tony Abbott’s office to confirm what, if any, other events Mr Abbott attended at the same time as these party events. I will update this post if and when I get a response.
Other questionable expenses revealed today
John Howard campaigns in WA… on your money
Another former Liberal Prime Minister has also been splashing the cash on party political trips too.
John Howard spent over $4000 on return airfares to Perth to join the Liberal party’s campaign in the Western Australia state elections in February. A further $437 was spent on car hire during the visit.
Rules for retired ex-Prime Ministers’ travel are less specific than for sitting parliamentarians, but still state that publicly-funded travel costs must provide “public benefit”. I’ll leave the reader to be the judge of that one.
And finally… One Nation get snappy
What revelations about MP allowances would be complete without mention of One Nation?
According to today’s expense reports, both Pauline Hanson and colleague Malcolm Roberts spent around $6000 each on digital cameras and accessories. (That’s some pretty top-end equipment!).
Senator Roberts bought his fancy digital camera in November…
Before Pauline copied him in January…
All set for professional photography careers after politics perhaps? Happy snapping One Nation!