All at taxpayers expense, of course.
GREENS Senator Sarah Hanson-Young charged taxpayers $2700 in flights, accommodation and Comcars in Sydney on the same weekend she received free VIP tickets to attend the 2013 Mardi Gras.
The Daily Telegraph can reveal Ms Hanson-Young received two VIP tickets from Mardi Gras organisers to attend the March 2 event.
That weekend the outspoken Greens Senator claimed $744 for two nights of travel allowance, $994 in flights and $963 in Comcar travel.
Ms Hanson-Young was the Greens spokeswoman for gay and lesbian issues at the time. She also claimed one night of travel allowance, valued at $363, to the 2012 Mardi Gras, when she sent out a media release about the event.
The 2013 trip included separate Comcar claims for more than $300 and $500 the day before the festival.
The revelations came after The Daily Telegraph revealed last month that Ms Hanson-Young had used taxpayer funds to assist in her mission to rescue asylum seekers in the Mediterranean.
When questioned by The Daily Telegraph over the expenses, Ms Hanson-Young’s office said she was acting in her role as the Greens spokeswoman on gay issues.
“The senator was invited to attend Mardi Gras as the Greens’ portfolio holder for LGBTI and key sponsor of a Marriage Equality Bill,’’ a statement said.
“She has been invited to attend every year that she has held this portfolio. Both weekends of Mardi Gras for 2012 and 2013 listed were full weekends which included attending portfolio-related events, meetings and media commitments as are normally expected.”
The Comcar claims were not addressed in the statement.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott yesterday said he was confident a review he ordered into parliamentary entitlements would give the public more confidence that politicians were not milking taxpayer funds.
“The important thing is that everyone should operate within the rules,’’ he said. “What’s even more important is that we change the rules to make sure that what is within the rules is also within community expectations.”
Mr Abbott revealed a new system would be in place within months. “I’m focused on trying to ensure that within a few months we have a new system … that engenders public confidence that members of parliament are doing what they need to do, but they’re doing it in a reasonable, prudent and, wherever possible, frugal way,” he said.
PROMOTER PUTS HEAT ON BURKE
EXCLUSIVE Kathy McCabe
TOUR promoter Michael Chugg has described his so-called VIP discussions with Labor MP Tony Burke at the Robbie Williams Swings Both Ways concert as nothing more than general chit chat.
The claim comes as Mr Burke faces increasing pressure over a $12,707 family holiday in 2012 at taxpayers’ expense. Mr Chugg, who provided a guest suite ticket to the Labor frontbencher for the Allphones Arena show in September last year, said they spoke about the Aussie music scene before the concert.
“It was basically just talking about Australian music and what he wanted to do with it. But nothing seemed to happen,” Mr Chugg said.
He said Mr Burke also enjoyed the hospitality of promoter Peter Noble during the annual Bluesfest event in Byron Bay in 2013.
The MP is known to be a big music fan and often goes to concerts and dines with musos and managers.
Mr Burke insists he has not done anything wrong following revelations about his taxpayer-funded travel claims.
In 2012, when he was environment minister, Mr Burke claimed $12,707 after flying his family business class for a holiday at Uluru, including $8,656 just on airfares.
“There is no allegation I have broken any of the rules at any point,” he said yesterday.
LABOR MP DEFENDS FIVE YEARS OF TAXPAYER-FUNDED GETAWAYS
EXCLUSIVE Daniel Meers
LABOR frontbencher Brendan O’Connor has charged taxpayers to fly and accommodate his family in the tropical north of the Australia every winter since 2011.
The shadow employment minister used the parliament’s generous family reunion entitlements to rack up more than $30,000 in claims.
The Daily Telegraph can reveal Mr O’Connor claimed:
• $6864.88 in flights and $345 in one night’s travel allowance in Cairns from August 5-11, 2011;
• $5841.24 in airfares, $1045 in three night’s accommodation, which included two nights in Cairns and one in Port Douglas, from July 4-9, 2012;
• $7452.54 in airfares and $1062 in accommodation in Cairns from July 11-14, 2013 and;
• $6864.88 in airfares to Darwin and three nights accommodation from August 1-4, 2014. It follows allegations fellow Labor frontbencher Tony Burke flew his family to Uluru while on government business in 2012 and charged the taxpayer for business class flights.
The family reunion entitlement is designed to give MPs a better work/family balance.
Mr O’Connor’s office said he had a heavy workload and was entitled to spend time with his family.
A spokeswoman said on all occasions Mr O’Connor was taking part in official government business.
“Recognising the significant amount of time MPs spend away from home, all members of parliament have an allocation for family travel costs,’’ the spokeswoman said.
“On each occasion referred to, Mr O’Connor was working in his capacity as either a minister or shadow minister.”