Accused pork-barrelling minister Bridget McKenzie accepted a free Christmas ham from the pig industry, but took three months to declare her purchase of a $2 million investment property in beachside Melbourne.
Her office on Sunday explained away the delay of her declaration on the purchase as the result of a long settlement, but meeting the mortgage repayments could soon prove eye-watering if she loses her $350,000-a-year salary as a minister.
Parliamentary guidelines require MPs to update the register of interests within 35 days of buying a property.
Senator McKenzie bought her new abode on October 12, but did not declare the purchase until late January.
She updated her register in November but did not mention the sale.
Her office said the property only formally settled this month and she had then declared the purchase to Parliament.
In the same batch of documentation, she also revealed her acceptance of tickets to the Boxing Day Test match at the MCG and a freebie Christmas ham from the pork lobby.
Her new “charming, solid-brick period residence” was billed by the agent as offering “light-filled and stylishly presented living” and is a stone’s throw from the beach.
Once dubbed “the Senator for Elwood” after she was exposed as secretly living in the leafy Melbourne suburb of Elwood instead of Bendigo, where her office is, Senator McKenzie rents that property and lives in Wodonga.
She bought the Elwood property in November 2014 and, according to her latest declaration to Parliament, has a mortgage over the property with ANZ bank.
By declaring the $2 million Middle Park property as an investment, she presumably plans to rent it.
Confirmation on whether she will stay or go as agriculture minister is still awaiting the findings of a report into the sports rorts affair that will be considered in coming days.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has asked his former chief of staff and now head of department Philip Gaetjens to investigate whether Senator McKenzie’s handling of the $100 million Community Sport Infrastructure Program breached ministerial standards.
It follows a damning auditor-general report that found the program favoured Liberal and National Party marginal seats and Labor electorates targeted by the conservatives before the 2019 election.
If she was forced to stand aside her salary could be nearly halved to $200,000.
There has been a growing expectation that the PM will cut her loose before Parliament resumes in February.
When Parliament resumes, Mr Morrison announced on Sunday night that the first day will be devoted to honouring the victims of the bushfire crisis and the service of firefighters and other volunteers.
“Sadly we have lost too many Australians to this disaster and the Parliament will rightly acknowledge all those who have lost loved ones and those who have suffered injuries or lost their homes or suffered in any way as a result of the recent bushfires,” Mr Morrison said.
“As a mark of respect, the motion of condolence will be the only formal business considered by the Parliament on our first day, with all members given the opportunity to speak.
“We will also hold a special event at Parliament for those families who have lost love ones fighting to protect communities, alongside representatives from the NSW Rural Fire Service and the Victorian Country Fire Authority.
“It is fitting that the Parliament reflects the deep gratitude felt by all Australians.”