Sport AFL Julie Bishop defends charging taxpayer to attend the AFL grand final

Julie Bishop defends charging taxpayer to attend the AFL grand final

julie bishop
Julie Bishop has attended the past four AFL grand finals. Photo: AAP
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Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has dismissed criticism of her decision to charge the taxpayer to visit Melbourne for the AFL grand final, saying she attended in an official capacity.

Ms Bishop said on Sunday that the game was a “significant international event” and that all of her travel was “within parliamentary entitlements”.

It followed a report in Fairfax that said Ms Bishop’s appearance at Saturday’s grand final would be the fourth time in four years she had charged the taxpayer to attend the game.

But Ms Bishop said she had been in Melbourne for other reasons on this occasion.

She was invited to the game in her “official capacity as a partner of the AFL”, she said.

“The AFL is a significant international event and I support political leaders – the Prime Minister and Bill Shorten and others – attending the AFL grand final to show our support for this game and for the organisation,” Ms Bishop told ABC TV.

“As Foreign Minister I work very closely with the AFL in our aid program, bringing the AFL sport to the Asia-Pacific. It is part of our aid program in the Pacific island nations.

“I was invited in my official capacity as a partner of the AFL and I was pleased to attend.”

The Deputy Liberal leader is no stranger to criticism over her expenses, having previously been slammed for charging the taxpayer $2716 to attend the Portsea Polo event in 2016. She subsequently cancelled a planned appearance at this year’s event.

David Panton and Julie Bishop
Julie Bishop and her partner David Panton attended the 2016 Portsea Polo. Photo: AAP

Ms Bishop was one of a number of federal MPs at Saturday’s grand final, including Malcolm Turnbull, Bill Shorten, Greens leader Richard Di Natale, Victorian-based MP Tim Wilson, NSW-based MP Michael McCormack, Health Minister Greg Hunt and Victorian Liberal senator Jane Hume.

Mr Turnbull and Mr Shorten gave speeches at the AFL Grand Final Breakfast as is customary.

Ms Bishop’s attendance at the breakfast prompted North Melbourne Football Club chairman Ben Buckley to joke: “I read with interest earlier this week that Julie Bishop did not arrange her travel with the purpose of attending an AFL match.

“Coincidentally at 5:30pm there’s an emergency meeting of the Federal Cabinet International Relations Committee in the Yarra Room at the MCG.”

The Foreign Minister’s attendance at the AFL grand final last year cost taxpayers $3500, Fairfax reported.

The controversy comes amid a debate over the politicisation of sport sparked by Tony Abbott’s call to ban US rapper Macklemore’s pro-gay marriage song Same Love from Sunday’s NRL grand final.

Mr Abbott has argued that events such as the NRL grand final should not be “politicised”.

Despite this, The New Daily reported on Friday that Mr Abbott had charged the taxpayer to attend a range of major sporting events including the Melbourne Cup, Australian Open and AFL grand final while Opposition Leader and Prime Minister.

Federal MPs are often criticised for using taxpayers’ money to attend sporting events, although the practice is within parliamentary rules provided they are attending in an official capacity.

Coalition ministers Steve Ciobo and Mathias Cormann and Labor’s Anthony Albanese are among those that have claimed travel and other expenses to attend the AFL grand final.

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