The ABC has been told that Prime Minister Tony Abbott yesterday told colleagues that he visited a Melbourne cancer clinic so he could charge taxpayers for the trip to the city.
On Monday Mr Abbott had travelled from Canberra to attend a private function in Melbourne.
The next morning he visited the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre before flying back to Canberra but was late to a scheduled meeting of Liberal and Nationals MPs.
Coalition sources have told the ABC that in explaining the delay Mr Abbott said he scheduled the morning media event at the cancer clinic to ensure the travel costs could be claimed.
Whenever the Prime Minister travels, he maximises his visits by ensuring he participates in community events, business visits and local media.
A statement from the Prime Minister’s office confirmed Mr Abbott attended a private function on Monday night, but said all travel was undertaken within the parliamentary entitlements rules.
“Whenever the Prime Minister travels, he maximises his visits by ensuring he participates in community events, business visits and local media,” the statement said.
“The Prime Minister ran a little late to joint party room yesterday because his visit with researchers at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre ran over time.”
Coalition frontbencher Malcolm Turnbull said he could not recall Mr Abbott making the comment to the party room.
Fellow frontbencher Steve Ciobo described the allegation against the Prime Minister as a “slur”.
“Of course the Prime Minister is being very actively involved in community events and community activities and supporting good causes, as anyone would expect a prime minister to do,” he said.
“And so all of the Prime Minister’s travel is within entitlement and in accordance with his ongoing commitment not only to medical research, but to the Australian community.”