Barnaby Joyce charged the taxpayer to stay overnight in Melbourne after attending an AFL game last year, before arranging a $6000 “special purpose” defence force charter flight back to Tamworth the following day.
The revelation comes as the latest Newspoll estimated that 65 per cent of voters wanted Mr Joyce to resign as Nationals leader because of his scandalous affair with a staffer – which has heightened scrutiny of his expenses claims.
Parliamentary documents show Mr Joyce claimed $442 in travelling allowance on May 13 last year for an overnight stay in Melbourne, citing “official business” as Deputy Prime Minister.
The Nationals leader declared in his register of member’s interests that he was a guest for the City vs Country at the May 13 AFL night match between Geelong and Essendon at the MCG, with the gift including “hospitality in the form of food and drinks”.
The New Daily can also reveal Mr Joyce was then the sole passenger on a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) flight from Melbourne to Tamworth the following day, which was Mother’s Day.
Defence Department documents show the cost to the taxpayer for the charter flight was $6440.
The Deputy Prime Minister’s expense claims have faced closer scrutiny after it was revealed he was having an affair with former staffer Vikki Campion, who is now pregnant with his child.
He has come under fire for claiming travelling allowance for 50 nights in Canberra, far more than any other government minister, and making use of the same allowance to stay in Armidale, rather than at the family home one hour away in Tamworth.
Mr Joyce spent the morning of the AFL game in Wodonga alongside Victorian Coalition senators Bridget McKenzie and Jane Hume to announce the border town would become home to the Murray Darling Basin Authority.
— Senator McKenzie (@senbmckenzie) May 13, 2017
But The New Daily could not find any record of Mr Joyce conducting media events or parliamentary business in Melbourne that day.
Mr Joyce did not claim travel between Wodonga and Melbourne.
Having flown from Canberra to Albury the previous morning with two staff, he travelled back from the Victorian capital to Tamworth alone.
Despite public frustration at such expense claims, politicians argue they are entitled to charge the taxpayer for costs incurred to attend sporting matches if they are present in an official capacity.
Last October, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop was forced to defend using taxpayers’ money to attend the AFL Grand Final for the fourth year in a row.
Opposition frontbencher Anthony Albanese is among a number of Labor politicians who have charged taxpayers to attend the AFL Grand Final.
Mr Joyce’s office did not respond to requests for comment.
Parliamentary guidelines state that special purpose flights are approved after taking into account “the availability of flights on major domestic airlines”, as well as other factors.
Last year, Buzzfeed reported Mr Joyce charged taxpayers nearly $9000 on RAAF flights to return to Canberra on the same day he attended a rugby league game with his family.
The flights were to ensure Mr Joyce could make it back to Canberra in time for the Prime Minister to call the federal election that day, May 9.