Groom MP justifies $11,000 flight in Choppergate wake
IAN Macfarlane has defended an $11,000 flight in the wake of increased scrutiny of MP spendings caused by the Bronwyn Bishop choppergate scandal.
The Federal Member for Groom said the $11,081.82 return flight from Canberra to Toowoomba was to open a new arts centre.
The flight was the only chartered trip detailed in the federal parliamentary expenditures for the six months to December 31.
Mr Macfarlane justified the spending of taxpayer monies as a way to fulfil political obligations of his portfolio and electorate.
"On September 8 last year, I had a commitment in the morning with the Prime Minister in Canberra to announce major reforms to skills and training, then a commitment in Toowoomba to officiate on behalf of the Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development, and I was required to return to Canberra later that evening for Ministerial meetings and a Cabinet meeting," Mr Macfarlane said.
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Mr Macfarlane claimed a total of $349,532.40 in expenses for the six months including $45,385 on domestic airfares and more than $131,700 in office facilities expenses.
The documents also show Mr Macfarlane was a regular passenger through Brisbane airport, casting speculation as to whether he used Wellcamp Airport when on official duty in the Groom electorate.
"I have regularly used the Wellcamp Airport since it opened, subject to the flights allowing for meeting and time commitments to be met," he said.
"Using the Wellcamp Airport where possible is not only cost effective but it also maximises my time in the electorate, enabling me to meet with more people and attend more community events."
The airport officially opened on November 17 last year.
Taxpayers dished out almost $40,000 for Mr Macfarlane to attend meetings in Japan, South Korea and India as part of the LNG Producers and Consumers Conference from November 4-12.
Fares for that trip totalled $31,426.44.
"As a minister based in regional Australia, I oversee a very diverse portfolio covering industry, energy, resources and science," he said.
"This portfolio covers every state and territory and requires meetings and site visits in various parts of the country, as well as regular trips to Canberra for the sittings of Parliament.
"Office costs include expenditure to operate my electorate office including administrative costs such as rent, as well as costs such as postage and communication with local constituents."
Parliamentary expenditure has come under fire since revelations Federal Speaker Bronwyn Bishop spent more than $5000 of taxpayers' money to charter a helicopter to travel 80km.
Mr Macfarlane said he supported full transparency in listing expenditures.
"I am fully accountable for my expenditure as a minister and as a member of parliament," he said.
"The reporting system is open and transparent with regular reporting and publication of expenditure."
Mrs Bishop was ordered to pay back the full $5227.27 and was hit with a 25 per cent penalty fee on top, which Mr Macfarlane said indicated accountability was stronger under the Abbott-lead government.
"One of the first actions of this government in November 2013 was to introduce improvements to the rules around parliamentary entitlements including a 25% penalty on incorrect travel claims and a strengthened declaration a parliamentarian makes when submitting a travel claim," he said.
"The system is now stronger than at any previous stage since its establishment."
Mr Macfarlane spent a total of $57,742.86 on overseas travel and claimed $1933.22 for family travel costs.
How Ian Macfarlane spent $349,532.40
- Parliamentary travelling allowance: $28,458.00
- Ministerial visits: $39,172.98
- Fares (Domestic Scheduled Fares): $45,385.97
- Office holder (charter): $11,081.82
- Car costs: $34,871.49
- Office facilities: $127,939.29
- Office administrative costs: $58,913.01
- Telecommunications: $1776.62
- Family travel costs: $1933.22
How Tony Abbott spent $697,228.98
- Parliamentary travelling allowance: $17,894.00
- Ministerial visits: $469,583.26
- Car costs: $81,325.66
- Office facilities: $84,894.94
- Office administrative costs: $25,388.33
- Telecommunications: $8116.75
- Family travel costs: $10,026.04