Federal Speaker Bronwyn Bishop is under fire for further allegations into expense claims, this time for a work trip to Albury in 2006 which coincided with a former ministers wedding.
Parliamentary colleagues told News Corp on Monday they were suspicious of Ms Bishop’s $600 flight from Sydney to Albury, during her role as chair of a parliamentary committee.
Ms Bishop, who is currently under investigation for her use of a $5000 charter helicopter from Geelong to Melbourne to attend a Liberal fundraiser, said the return flight was to conduct “committee chair business”.
But the following day she attended the wedding of former Liberal MP for Indi Sophie Mirabella, along with fellow Liberal MP Tony Abbott.
One Liberal MP told News Corp it was “virtually unheard of” for a chair of a committee to travel by themselves for “official business”.
“You might travel as a group for a committee hearing or tour, but I’ve not known of a chair to travel on their own and conduct official business,” the MP said.
A spokesman for Ms Bishop told NewsCorp on Monday the Speaker conducted a meeting in Albury on that Friday night but would not reveal who it was with.
Ms Bishop was at the time chair of the House of Representatives committee on family and human services, conducting an inquiry into “balancing work and family”.
Labor is calling on the Speaker to explain what business she was undertaking when she claimed expenses to attend Mrs Mirabella’s wedding.
Mr Abbott repaid $1100 in airfares, cars and allowances when the expenses were made public in 2013.
Mr Abbott’s office said at the time he had been advised by the Finance Department it was not possible to determine whether the travel had been made within his entitlements.
However, the Speaker’s office said she won’t be paying the money back as she was attending as chairwoman of the parliament’s family and human services committee.
It is understood the business involved speaking on the Friday before the weekend wedding, to witnesses wanting to give private evidence in the inquiry into work-life balance.
“The rules allowed for chairs of committees to travel independently of other committee members without any specific approval”, a spokesperson for the speaker said.
Labor frontbencher Kate Ellis, who was on the same committee at the time, told reporters on Tuesday she struggled to see how it was committee business.
She called for Mrs Bishop to release details of the committee approval for the travel.
“We’ve seen the ducking and weaving but what we haven’t seen is the black and white proof,” Ms Ellis said.
The Department of Finance is currently reviewing Mrs Bishop’s use of a hired helicopter to attend a Liberal fundraiser.
The Speaker has agreed to pay back the cost of the trip plus a penalty.
Acting Greens leader Larissa Waters said neither weddings nor party fundraisers were parliamentary business.
“It’s about time MPs stopped rorting the system,” Ms Waters said.
She said it showed the need for an independent commissioner to advise MPs on expenses.
All aboard the ‘Bronny Copter’
Meanwhile, in light of Ms Bishop’s ‘Choppergate’ scandal helicopter flight from Geelong to Melbourne, a tongue in cheek game has been created.
Named the ‘Bronny Copter’, users must try to get the chopper from Melbourne to Geelong without crashing.
The further you travel, the higher the dollars clock up at the top of the screen, while dodging rolled up newspapers and bottles of wine. You can cash in bonus dollars when flying into the ‘Master Card’ logo.
Once the game has ended you can tweet your score which reads: ‘I just spent 23 taxpayers’ dollars!’.
– with AAP