Tony Abbott has regularly charged the taxpayer to attend some of the biggest moments in Australian sport – despite now railing against what he claims is the politicisation of the NRL Grand Final.
The former prime minister has positioned himself at the forefront of opposition to the NRL’s decision to have Macklemore perform at the grand final.
Mr Abbott has backed a petition calling for Macklemore’s pro-gay rights song Same Love to be banned from the US rapper’s setlist during Sunday night’s half-time entertainment.
Footy fans shouldn't be subjected to a politicised grand final. Sport is sport! https://t.co/1uRh4eZ61Z
— Tony Abbott (@TonyAbbottMHR) September 27, 2017
While Mr Abbott insists that sport and politics should not mix, Department of Finance records show taxpayers have regularly paid for the Member for Warringah and his family to attend sporting events around the country.
As opposition leader and then PM, Mr Abbott claimed flights, ComCar expenses and travelling allowance for him and his family to watch the AFL Grand Final in Melbourne in 2011 ($4841.39), 2012 ($2024.69) and 2013 ($3096.50).
Mr Abbott and his family also appeared at the annual Dreamtime at the ‘G game between Essendon and Richmond, slugging the Commonwealth to the tune of $2586.36 in 2011 and $1666.31 in 2012.
Taxpayers also paid $2417.50 for the Abbott family to attend Derby Day in Melbourne in November 2012, and $1639.82 for the Australian Open men’s tennis final that same year.
News Corp has previously reported that Mr Abbott also claimed $2154.40 to attend the Melbourne Cup in November 2010.
Politicians from all parties regularly claim their expenses to attend sporting events, which is allowed under parliamentary rules if they are attending in an official capacity.
Mr Abbott’s office was contacted for comment.
NRL backs Same Love
Although the call to ban Same Love from grand final day has garnered more than 9000 signatures, Mr Abbott’s intervention was dismissed by both sides of the same-sex marriage debate on Thursday.
Attorney-General George Brandis, a ‘Yes’ supporter, hit back at Mr Abbott on Thursday.
“For Mr Abbott and anyone else to say that it should be banned I think is a bizarre thing to say,” he told the ABC.
“I thought Mr Abbott believed in freedom of speech.”
He later told Sky News: “It’s interesting the first person to call for something to be banned is Tony Abbott.”
Australian Conservatives senator Cory Bernardi, who unveiled a robocall in support of the ‘No’ camp on Thursday, said he had no issue with Macklemore performing the song on Sunday.
“Macklemore has got some good songs, he’s got one of them which made the top 10 which doesn’t sit well with me politically,” Senator Bernardi told Sky News.
“I’m not sure this was meant to be a political statement, I think it was meant to be just more about entertainment, he’s had a few mega big hits and I’ll enjoy three of the four of them.”
But Mr Abbott stood by his comments on Thursday.
“Everyone has the right to express an opinion and the opinion I expressed yesterday was that the NRL had made a poor call,” he said.
Amid the controversy, the NRL has confirmed Macklemore’s performance will go ahead as planned.
“We’ve made it pretty clear that we’re an inclusive game,” NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg told 2GB.
“And while everyone will stand for their own issues and make their own decisions we are very comfortable with where we sit.
“It’ll be a little hypocritical of us to have inclusiveness as one of our values and not actually deliver on it. We’ve made our position pretty clear. I don’t expect everyone to agree with that and I understand that.”