Federal Speaker Bronwyn Bishop has given in to public pressure, saying she will reimburse the cost of a chartered helicopter flight she took from Melbourne to Geelong in 2014.
Earlier on Thursday, Treasurer Joe Hockey called on Mrs Bishop to explain why she cost taxpayers more than $5000 to travel 80km for a Liberal Party event at a golf club.
The Federal Parliamentary Speaker came under fire after it was revealed on Wednesday Mrs Bishop took a helicopter when a cab would have cost about $300.
By Thursday afternoon Mrs Bishop had issued a statement on the matter.
“I have today written to the Special Minister of the State indicating I will reimburse the Department of Finance the costs associated with the use of my charter allowance on 5 November 2014,” the statement said.
“Whilst my understanding is that this travel was conducted within the rules, to avoid any doubt, I will reimburse the full costs.”
Asked if Mrs Bishop’s use of entitlements passed the ‘sniff test’, Mr Hockey said: “Instinctively, it doesn’t.”
“It is not a good look and the Speaker needs to explain the matter,” Mr Hockey told 2UE Radio on Thursday morning.
The details were released by the Department of Finance in June as part of a six-month audit into the expenses racked up by serving and former federal politicians for the second part of 2014 – revealing Ms Bishop’s total spend was $398,563.
She is ranked seventh out of the top 10 spenders for that period, and one of the biggest spenders in parliament if you leave out once-off office fit-out costs.
Mrs Bishop attended an event at the Clifton Springs Golf Club on November 5, according to club member Neil Remeeus.
The charter for the 80km trip cost $5,227.27, out of her total expenses for the last half of 2014 of just under $400,000.
The golf club’s Facebook page described Mrs Bishop’s arrival as “spectacular”. The club declined to comment about the event, saying only that it was a function.
The documents also revealed that Mrs Bishop billed taxpayers almost $90,000 for a two-week European trip partly aimed at securing herself a plum new job.
In 2014, Mrs Bishop ran for presidency of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, a democracy group based in Geneva, but didn’t make the cut.
According to the documents, during two weeks in October 2014, Mrs Bishop led a small parliamentary delegation to Italy, Belgium and Austria before heading to Switzerland at a cost of $88,084.
The report goes on to list other expenses, including her and two staff members spending $25,400 on accommodation and food, $42,400 on airfares and almost $14,000 on ground transport in just one fortnight. They also pocketed about $6000 in advances and for minor and related expenses.
When comparing other delegates on the same trip, Liberal MP Nola Marino spent $21,300, while Labor parliamentarians Glenn Sterle and Tony Zappia spent $18,666 and $13,249 respectively.
Mrs Bishop also notched up a $43,000 bill on a trip to Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Laos and Korea in September 2014.
The other MPs who spent more than Mrs Bishop during the same period was Prime Minister Tony Abbott, and frontbenchers Julie Bishop, Andrew Robb, Scott Morrison, Ian Macfarlane and Barnaby Joyce.
Mrs Bishop’s expenses are on top of her $341,000 salary.
Independent Senator Nick Xenophon described the rules around parliamentary expenses as “broken” following the controversy.
“I think among some of my colleagues there’s a culture of entitlement,” Senator Xenophon told reporters in Sydney.