Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull faces an unpromising start to the New Year following a scandal over the expenses claimed by a leading Cabinet colleague, health minister, Sussan Ley.
Ms Ley resigned from from her post one week after Turnbull ordered Martin Parkinson, the public servant who is head of his office, to investigate Ms Ley’s expenses over a period of over three years. A replacement will be announced next week.
This follows a revelation in News Corp newspapers that Ms Ley, who represents a rural constituency on the New South Wales-Victorin border had charged the taxpayer $40,000 towards the cost of 18 trips she has made to Queensland’s Gold Coast between 2013 and 2016. It has been revealed that her husband runs a business at the high rise holiday strip. Some of his expenses were included in the claim.
But the most questionable aspect of the affair is the admission by Ms Ley that she bought an $800,000 luxury apartment at an auction on one of the trips claimed as business. Ms Ley claims that she and her partner only knew of the impending auction on the journey to the Gold Coast, and made a bid on impulse, that turned out to be successful.
Turnbull has refused to publish Mr Parkinson’s report, and the Opposition’s leader in the Senate has again accused him of weakness in not acting last week. But Labor has its skeletons in this cupboard do, with front bencher and former minister Tony Burke claimed $12,000 for a family trip to Uluru( Ayers Rock)
Turnbull will now be under pressure to impose a new expenses regime on MPs requiring that only trips that can be described as fully business can be funded by the public.