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Australia minister quits over expenses saga

(UDHAYAM, CANBERRA) – Australia’s Health Minister Sussan Ley has resigned after using a taxpayer-funded trip to purchase an apartment on Queensland’s Gold Coast.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he accepted Ms Ley’s resignation on Friday.

Entitlements scandals have engulfed Australian politics in recent years.

Mr Turnbull pledged to set up an independent body to oversee parliamentary expenses, similar to what exists in the United Kingdom.

“Australians are entitled to expect that politicians spend taxpayers’ money carefully, ensuring at all times that their work expenditure represents an efficient, effective and ethical use of public resources,” Mr Turnbull said.

“We should be as careful and as accountable with taxpayer money as we possibly can be.”

Ms Ley has said the decision to purchase the A$795,000 (£473,300; $585,200) investment property during a ministerial trip in May 2015 was “neither planned nor anticipated”.

In her resignation statement, Ms Ley maintained she had not broken any rules, “not just regarding entitlements but most importantly the ministerial code of conduct”.

Recent entitlements sagas

  • Former speaker of parliament Peter Slipper was convicted in 2014 of dishonestly using taxi allowances to visit Canberra wineries. The conviction was later overturned, with a court ruling the evidence did not show “beyond reasonable doubt” that the trips were not job-related.
  • Another speaker, veteran MP Bronwyn Bishop, was forced to resign in 2015 after using A$5,000 in public funds to charter a helicopter to attend a political fundraiser, in a scandal dubbed “Choppergate”.
  • Also in 2015, local media reported then-Treasurer Joe Hockey claimed a A$270-a-night allowance to stay in a Canberra house majority-owned by his wife. Though it was revealed as a legitimate claim, the case renewed debate over politicians’ entitlements.
  • In October, senior Victorian politician Steve Herbert apologised for using his taxpayer-funded chauffeur to transport his dogs 120km (80 miles) to his country house.
  • However, she said the saga had become a distraction for the government.

“Whilst I have attempted at all times to be meticulous with rules and standards, I accept community annoyance, even anger, with politicians’ entitlements demands a response,” she said on Friday. (Courtesy – BBC)

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