An Australian politician has proved the age of entitlement is still well and truly alive.
Parliamentary speaker Bronwyn Bishop apparently likes to travel in style. According to the Herald Sun, she took a return private helicopter ride to a political fundraiser a mere 75 kilometres away in November. It cost a cool A$5227.
The trip from Melbourne to Geelong would have only taken her an hour by car each way — but who wants to drive when you can fly? Not Bishop.
Labor’s finance spokesman says there is “no way” Bronwyn Bishop can remain as Speaker if she signed a form claiming a helicopter flight from Melbourne to Geelong was official business if she actually attended a Liberal Party fundraiser.
We all know people can make honest mistakes but you don’t accidentally get on to a helicopter and turn up at a Liberal Party fundraiser
In a call that escalates pressure on the under-fire Speaker, Tony Burke suggested Mrs Bishop may need to resign as Speaker over her misuse of expenses.
On Thursday, Mrs Bishop drew fire from her own side over the use of the charter helicopter flight.
Treasurer Joe Hockey said it was “not a good look” and that it did not pass the “sniff test”, while Social Services Minister Scott Morrison would not back the Speaker’s use of expenses.
Mrs Bishop has promised to pay back the $5227 cost of hiring the helicopter but has not admitted any wrongdoing. She said she believed the travel was within the rules but she was giving a refund to “avoid any doubt”.
Mr Burke called for the release of a form – the so-called “Presiding Officers form” – that Mrs Bishop would normally have to have signed before taking a charter flight.
“It depends on whether or not she signs it [the form] in its normal form. The normal form would say this is official business and would also say there are serious criminal penalties if this is put in error,” he told the Seven Network.
“Now, if she signs it off in the normal form and it is, you know, a Liberal Party fundraiser that she has gone to, then that’s the end of the matter, she can’t stay as Speaker, absolutely no way.”
“We all know people can make honest mistakes but you don’t accidentally get on to a helicopter and turn up at a Liberal Party fundraiser…the government needs to release this document for us to work out exactly what it is that Bronwyn Bishop has claimed she has done.”
In addition to questions about the charter helicopter flight, Mrs Bishop’s $309,000 in expenditure on overseas trips in one year has also been questioned.
On a European trip, Mrs Bishop and two staff members spent $25,400 on accommodation and food, $42,400 on airfares and almost $14,000 on ground transport over the fortnight. They also pocketed about $6000 in advances and for minor and related expenses.
The two most-recent Labor Speakers, Anna Burke and Harry Jenkins, have lashed the spending, labelling the claims as “ludicrous”.
Fairfax Media has asked the Speaker’s office to release the form.