- Bishop spending more on overseas travel than former Speakers
- Bishop charters chopper for Liberal event
- Bishop job bid leaves taxpayers with huge expense bill
- Comment: Bishop doing nothing to restore dignity to Speaker's office
Treasurer Joe Hockey has called on federal Speaker Bronwyn Bishop to explain why she spent $5000 on short helicopter ride to a Liberal fundraiser, agreeing it doesn't pass the "sniff test".
Mr Hockey admitted Mrs Bishop's expenses were "not a good look" for the government, after he had personally declared the "age of entitlement" was over. He declined to say whether she should resign.
"I think Bronwyn Bishop should have the opportunity to explain exactly where the money went and what it was for," he said on 2UE radio on Thursday.
Asked if the helicopter ride from Melbourne to Geelong - a distance of about one hour by car - in November last year to attend a Liberal Party fundraiser passed "any sort of sniff test", Mr Hockey replied, "Look, instinctively, it doesn't."
Also asked how Mrs Bishop came to spend almost $300,000 on overseas trips in one year, Mr Hockey said: "I don't know, to be brutally honest. I think the Speaker needs to explain the matter."
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has seized on the revelations about the Speaker's expenses, including the $5000 helicopter trip, describing them as an "egregious abuse of entitlements".
Mr Shorten said Mrs Bishop's taxpayer-funded helicopter ride to the Liberal fundraiser was "colossally arrogant" and Prime Minister Tony Abbott must take action.
"Using taxpayer funds to attend a party political event, this is the sort of arrogance which makes Australians so angry," he told reporters on Thursday.
"Mr Abbott, if he is to retain any respect for his government, must take action on this. It is such a colossally arrogant thing to do."
At the very least, Mr Abbott must say whether he believes the helicopter ride was an appropriate use of public money, Mr Shorten said.
The Greens' Lee Rhiannon said Mrs Bishop should immediately refund the money. She said she would also write to the Auditor-General to assess the Speaker's entitlements.
Labor has also seized on Fairfax Media's revelations that Mrs Bishop spent $90,000 of taxpayer cash on a European trip partly aimed at an attempt to secure her a plum new job abroad.
Hockey: I won't micro-manage expenses
Mr Hockey would not go so far as to say Mrs Bishop should pay the money back, but likened her campaign to represent Australia internationally at the Inter-Parliamentary Union to the importance of the Australian cricket team representing the nation overseas.
"When we're part of international organisations, no matter what they are, it is good for Australia to take a leadership role."
He said Parliament did not "micro-manage" the global budget for such trips, saying it was important to protect the Speaker's independence.
He said Fairfax Media's ability to report on Mrs Bishop's expenses showed that proper accountability processes were already in place for such expenses.
He said that an independent remuneration tribunal set politicians' entitlements and should continue to do so.
"When it is an excessive amount of money, or for an improper use, the individual member of Parliament has to explain it and the court of the people will make a decision."
In 2012, when in opposition, the Coalition called for former Speaker Peter Slipper to resign after he was accused of misusing $900 in Cabcharge vouchers for three taxi trips.
Mr Slipper complained that other politicians had been allowed to pay back inappropriate entitlements while he faced court for his.
Mr Hockey said those were "different circumstances".
"The Speaker is the one that should explain the money and how it should be spent."
Social Services Minister Scott Morrison would not be drawn on whether Mrs Bishop should resign over the scandal, and declined to comment on Mrs Bishop's expenses, saying he was not familiar with the circumstances of the Liberal Party function.
"These are matters for individual members of Parliament and in this case it's a matter for the Speaker," he said.
"She is the Speaker of the Parliament and not the government and it's up to every member of Parliament, every senator, to be accountable for their own actions in relation to their entitlements.
"I think that is the appropriate process. I am not in a habit of commenting on other's entitlements and I don't intend to start now."
Bishop's big spend
An analysis by Fairfax Media revealed Mrs Bishop spent more on overseas travel in a 12-month period than any of her most recent predecessors - Anna Burke, Mr Slipper and Harry Jenkins.
Mrs Bishop spent $178,000 on four major trips in the first half of 2014 and $131,000 on two trips in the latter half - $309,000 in total. Only Mr Jenkins ever even came close to that figure, racking up $277,000 in 2009.
The final of Mrs Bishop's 2014 trips - to Italy, Belgium, Austria and Switzerland - has stirred particular controversy.
Mrs Bishop led a small parliamentary delegation on the two-week trip, which culminated in a week-long meeting in Geneva of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, of which she was campaigning to become president.
Mrs Bishop lost the vote to Bangladesh's candidate – but not before racking up $88,084 in expenses.
The veteran Liberal warrior's latest six-monthly entitlements report reveals she and two staff members, spokesman Damien Jones and official Talitha Try, spent $25,400 on accommodation and food, $42,400 on airfares and almost $14,000 on ground transport over the fortnight. They also pocketed about $6000 in advances and for minor and related expenses.
Even taking into account the fact that she had accompanying staff, Mrs Bishop's spending dwarfs that of her four fellow delegates.
On the same trip, Liberal MP Nola Marino spent $21,300, while Labor parliamentarians Glenn Sterle and Tony Zappia spent $18,666 and $13,249 respectively. Liberal senator Cory Bernardi, who only travelled to Switzerland, spent $10,178.
Indeed, Mrs Bishop and her staff spent vastly more than all four of the other delegates combined – their total expenses tally up to about $63,000. They each spent between $2000 to $3000 on accommodation and food and between $8000 and $15,000 on flights.
Mrs Bishop's office has defended the spending.
Mr Jones said Mrs Bishop was entitled to take two staff members on the European trip.
"It's the first and only time she has taken two staff," he told Fairfax Media. "That was due to the size of the trip and the fact she was running for IPU president."
Asked if the spending was reasonable, Mr Jones said: "That's what it costs."
The story Bronwyn Bishop's $5000 helicopter ride to Liberal fundraiser fails the 'sniff test': Joe Hockey first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.