Minister for government services Stuart Robert is in the hot seat after being spotted baptising tourists in Israel when he was supposed to be sitting in parliament.
The federal minister was holidaying in Israel with his wife Chantelle, leading a two-week Treasures of Grace Tour on behalf of his Pentecostal church.
His tour was promoted as a journey where people could ‘walk in the footsteps of Jesus’ at a cost $5600 per person, reported the Daily Mail.
Mr Robert took personal leave from parliament to go on the journey. Parliament only sat for a total of 35 days this year.
Photos of Mr Robert dunking a woman during a baptism ceremony in the Jordan River have brought on a flood of criticism and calls for his head.
“This is a bloke who the taxpayer is paying … and instead of representing the Gold Coast, he’s overseas swimming with his mates,” a Labor MP told the Courier Mail.
“Who does he think he is – the f**king Messiah?”
A spokeserson for Mr Robert retaliated, saying he had approval for leave from parliament and that he’d paid for the family trip out of his own pocket.
“People of faith have come to expect these sorts of attacks from Labor,” said the spokesperson.
“The minister had approved leave and attended the trip with his family in a personal capacity and at his own expense as a volunteer with his local church.”
The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) also defended Mr Robert.
“Were this to be a MP on personal leave making a pilgrimage according to the tenets of other faiths, nobody would raise an eyebrow – they might even praise their piety,” ACL head Dan Flynn told the Daily Mail Australia.
Mr Robert’s religion has landed him in hot water before.
In March this year, taxpayers footed the bill for him to attend a Hillsong mega church conference with his wife.
Taxpayers stumped up $2326 for his travel and accommodation, including $672 for wife Chantelle.
The government claims he was asked to represent the government at the five-day Hillsong conference.
Last year, he ripped off $2000 a month from taxpayers for his internet bills and was eventually forced to pay back almost $38,000.
In 2016, then prime minister Malcolm Turnbull sacked Mr Robert for breaching ministerial rules during a secretive trip to China he made in 2014, after it was revealed Mr Robert had an indirect financial stake in the company he helped in Beijing.
Mr Robert also currently oversees the government’s robo-debt scheme, which was last week found to be unlawful by the federal court.
He has also gone on record as saying, “We will not apologise … for … [what] we are lawfully required to do.”
One wonders if one is soon on the way.
Do you think it’s right for an MP to take time off from the very limited time he or she is required to sit in parliament? Is the furore around Mr Robert warranted?
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