6 July, 2013
The Opposition leader, Mr Abbott, was forced to repay taxpayers nearly $9,400 after receiving travel expenses to promote his book Battlelines in 2009.
The repayment occurred after Mr Abbott publicly denied the allegation through a spokesman, who stated:
“All travel undertaken by Mr Abbott has been within the entitlement. This is a blatant attempt by Labor to smear and mislead.”
Mr Glenn Milne raised the matter in an article in The Drum on 28 July, 2010 in which he calculated that Mr Abbott had ripped $6,651.96 off taxpayers for private expenses he incurred in promoting his book:
“At the very least these expenses are politically awkward. Was he also doing government business in the places where he promoted his book? Even if he was, is it appropriate to plug your book while you’re there when taxpayers are paying the travel bill? Remember the savage gusto with which the Opposition, Abbott included, went after Kevin Rudd and former defence minister Joel Fitzgibbon over claims they had not properly declared privately sponsored air fares to China.”
Documents obtained by No Fibs using Right To Know to utilise Freedom of Information laws show that in response to the article, the Finance Department wrote to Mr Abbott on 19 August, 2010 under the Minchin Protocol – which allows MPs to repay false claims to avoid being referred to the AFP – requiring him to justify his Battlelines claims.
In reply, Mr Abbott’s chief of staff, Ms Credlin agreed to repay $6255.49 for flights “inadvertently booked for official travel rather than private”.
But on 10 January 2011 the Special Minister of State, Mr Gray, wrote to Mr Abbott confirming that he had failed to reimburse other claims for non-flight Battlelines expenses, including the use of Comcars, and had repaid another $3,141.93.
Mr Gray said that “given the repayments made I do not intend to take further action” but that Mr Abbott should not make such claims again and desist from requiring taxpayer-funded staff to work on his private business.
It appears that Mr Abbott has not corrected the public record.
The treatment of Mr Abbott is in stark contrast to that of Mr Slipper, who has been charged with wrongly claiming $900 in travel allowance in 2010. Mr Slipper offered to repay the $900 when the matter was raised last year, but was told by the Finance Department that the Minchin Protocol did not apply because the matter had been directly referred to police by a person who remains a mystery.
It thus appears that under the new ‘Slipper exception’ to the Minchin Protocol, someone could have referred The Drum article to the AFP upon its publication, thus negating the operation of the Protocol.
Mr Abbott’s extremely high expenses claims have been the subject of comment as has the fact that he claims travel allowance for his ‘volunteer’ activities.
Dept of Finance letter to Mr Tony Abbott – 19 August 2010
Peta Credlin letter to Dept of Finance – 29 October 2010
Gary Gray Special Minister of State letter to Mr Abbott – 10 January 2011
#BattleRort News finally reported by SMH
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Update 8 July 2013
Asked if he claimed expenses for his book tour. OL Tony Abbott – 'I did not.'
— Latika M Bourke (@latikambourke) July 8, 2013
Guardian Australia: Tony Abbott denies wrongly claiming expenses from 2009 book tour
Update 9 July 2013
Courier Mail: Newman Government’s move to block public service pay rise while granting one for MPs smacks of hypocrisy
ABC News story with errors: Tony Abbott blames Labor dirt campaign for questions over expenses
Updare 10 July 2013
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