News National Travel expenses, dual citizenship: Scandals that have brought down Australian politicians

Travel expenses, dual citizenship: Scandals that have brought down Australian politicians

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Attorney-General Christian Porter maintains he will not resign after coming forward as the minister at the centre of a historical rape allegation.

Mr Porter on Wednesday afternoon emphatically denied all claims of the alleged assault.

“If I were to resign and that set a new standard, there wouldn’t be much need for an attorney-general anyway because there would be no rule of law left to protect in this country, so I will not be part of letting that happen while I am Attorney-General,” the former prosecution lawyer told a press conference.

PM Scott Morrison is not required by law to stand down his Attorney-General over the unproven allegations, but political figures continue to call for Mr Porter to stand aside pending an investigation into the matter.

“This will require further leadership and action from the Prime Minister,” Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said, following the press conference.

Sitting politicians have walked (or been pushed) over far less serious allegations than rape.

The New Daily looks at previous scandals that have prompted federal parliamentarians to resign from their positions – or quit Parliament altogether.


In August 2015, veteran Liberal MP Bronwyn Bishop resigned as Speaker of the House of Representatives over a major travel expenses scandal.

Her 29-year political career began to unravel after it was revealed she had charged taxpayers $5000 to charter a helicopter from Melbourne to Geelong for a Liberal Party fundraiser.

Bronwyn Bishop resigned as speaker in August 2015 following public outcry over travel expenses. Photo: Getty

The incident became known as “Choppergate” and blew up across major national news outlets and on social media.

The scandal later expanded to include allegations of two more charter flights and a $90,000 fortnight in Europe, during which Mrs Bishop charged taxpayers nearly $1000 a day to travel in luxurious private limousines.

Although she initially defended her use of entitlements, Ms Bishop was forced to apologise after weeks of pressure and stand down.

Queensland charter flights

In a similar scandal to Ms Bishop, Health Minister Sussan Ley was forced to step down in January 2017 after using a taxpayer-funded trip to buy an investment property on Queensland’s Gold Coast.

However, despite facing public fury over her travel expenses, the Liberal politician maintained she had not broken any rules.

Sussan Ley denied any wrongdoing. Photo: AAP

In response, then-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull set up an independent watchdog to oversee parliamentary expenses.

Ms Ley is now the Environment Minister as part of the Morrison government.

A slip up

Former speaker Peter Slipper resigned from Julia Gillard’s government in 2012 under the cloud of a sex scandal.

Mr Slipper was accused of sexually harassing one of his former staff members by text message.

Those text messages were harnessed by then opposition leader Tony Abbott in Parliament, which prompted Ms Gillard’s famous misogyny speech.

However, the sexual harassment case against Mr Slipper was eventually dismissed, with the judge citing the claims as an “abuse of process”.

Then, the complainant, former aide James Ashby, successfully appealed against the Federal Court’s dismissal.

Mr Ashby, however, withdrew the charges before the trial was brought to court.

Dual citizenship crisis

Between 2017 and 2018, no less than 15 sitting members of federal Parliament were deemed ineligible by the High Court of Australia for holding dual citizenships.

The crisis arose from Section 44 of the Constitution, which bans parliamentarians from having allegiance to a foreign power.

During August and September in 2017, six senators and deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce became known as the ‘Citizenship Seven’ and were referred to the High Court.

Five were deemed ineligible.

That group included Mr Joyce and senators Scott Ludlam, Fiona Nash, Malcolm Roberts and Larissa Waters.

Within weeks, the crisis exploded as more and more parliamentarians were judged to be ineligible or chose to resign after revealing their dual citizenships.

Ten other politicians were axed:

  • Liberal senator Stephen Parry
  • Liberal MP John Alexander
  • Independent senator Jacqui Lambie
  • Nick Xenophon Team (NXT) senator Skye Kakoschke-Moore
  • Labor MP David Feeney
  • Labor senator Katy Gallagher
  • Labor MP Justine Keay
  • Labor MP Susan Lamb
  • NXT MP Rebekha Sharkie
  • Labor MP Josh Wilson.

Barnaby and the ‘bonk ban’

After being caught out by Section 44, Mr Joyce renounced his dual citizenship and later reclaimed his seat by winning the New England by-election in December 2017.

But it wasn’t long before his career was in jeopardy again.

The MP was forced to resign as deputy prime minister and Nationals leader after facing sustained pressure to quit following revelations of his affair with former staffer Vicki Campion.

Vikki Campion and Barnaby Joyce are parents to two sons together. Photo: AAP

In a separate matter, Mr Joyce was also the subject of a sexual harassment claim at the time.

Chinese political donor connections

In December 2017, Labor senator Sam Dastyari quit the Australian Senate after weeks of controversy surrounding his links to Chinese donors.

The NSW senator had reportedly warned Huang Xiangmo, a donor with links to China’s ruling Communist Party, that he was probably under counter-intelligence surveillance in one of their last meetings.

Labor senator Sam Dastyari was forced out of office at the age of 34 over foreign interference. Photo: AAP

Mr Dastyari had also pressured the deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek, then the foreign affairs spokeswoman, not to meet a pro-democracy Chinese activist during a Hong Kong trip.

Sports rorts

In February 2020, Senator Bridget McKenzie quit Cabinet and resigned as deputy Nationals leader in the wake of the so-called “sports rorts” affair.

Bridget McKenzie has stayed on as a senator for Victoria. Photo: Getty

A report found that in her role as the Minister for Sport in the Morrison government, Senator McKenzie deliberately favoured marginal or targeted electorates in her allocation of community sport funding grants in the lead up to the 2019 federal election.

The final straw was the discovery that she breached ministerial standards by failing to disclose her membership of a gun club that received nearly $36,000 from the grants program.

  • For confidential support and services around sexual assault, contact 1800 RESPECT online or by phone on 1800 737 732. If you or someone you know needs help contact Life Line on 13 11 14

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