Pressure is mounting for Health Minister Sussan Ley to resign after it’s been made public that her visits to the Gold Coast outnumbered those of all of her frontbench colleagues not from Queensland combined.
Ms Ley has had 22 taxpayer-funded trips to and from the Gold Coast and has claimed 37 nights.
Yesterday, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull made the announcement she’d be stepping aside without ministerial pay while her travel expenses were investigated.
She admitted there’d been an "error of judgement".
The Australian reports Ley charged the taxpayer “almost $65,000 for 22 trips to the Gold Coast between January 2013 and June 2016, including 37 nights when she claimed a travel allowance.”
Moreover, her partner Graham Johnston, who owns an investment property and a bin-cleaning franchise on the Gold Coast joined her on 13 of those nights, with the pair claiming the cost of his flights.
Ms Ley is being particularly scrutinised over the fact she made two of the trips on New Year’s Eve with opposition saying it's highly unlikely she'd be doing official business then.
However, she's defended her decision to bill taxpayers for travel in these instances, saying she had discussed the government’s education and training agenda with recruitment mogul Sarina Russo at a business lunch.
“It was the incoming government’s agenda around particular education and training issues, and reflected on what the government could do to make sure that we recognised the needs of everyone in these important areas,” Ms Ley said.
She then attended a New Year’s Eve event hosted by Ms Russo at the Gold Coast’s Palazzo Versace hotel in 2014.
In a statement yesterday, Russo offered support to her friend: “I respect and admire the minister,” she said. “She has worked diligently in every portfolio and has made a difference. Every time I met with her it related to her portfolio or the government at hand.”
More as we get it.