Sussan Ley has stepped down ‘without pay’ while she explains her use of taxpayer funds.
The Federal Minister for Health and Aged Care, and Minister for Sport, Sussan Ley, has stepped aside 'without pay' pending an investigation into her use of taxpayer funded travel entitlements over recent years.
Ms Ley’s purchase of a $795,000 Gold Coast property from a Liberal Party donor during an ‘official’ work visit is at the centre of the controversy.
While Ms Ley alleges that the purchase of the Gold Coast apartment was an ‘impulse buy’, she eventually admitted that using public money to partly fund her personal endeavours was ‘an error of judgement’.
She has asked the Department of Finance to review all of her ministerial travel to the Gold Coast, after it was revealed that she had travelled there 17 times between 2013 and 2016 and, in doing so, cost the Australian taxpayer over $40,000.
She has offered to repay the money for four of those trips, but she stated that it should not be seen as an admission of guilt.
Ms Ley is also under fire for claiming flight costs in order to attend the New Year’s Eve parties of wealthy businesswoman and former Liberal Party donor Sarina Russo. Ms Russo is the owner of employment agency, Job Access, which holds Government contracts for education and training services worth a total of $45.4 million.
Ms Ley stated that she does not expect to stand down permanently and is confident that she hasn’t broken any rules.
The Opposition disagrees, saying that her explanation of the purchase being “not planned nor anticipated” is an insult to Australians and not sufficient to clear her of any wrongdoing.
"I think this doesn't pass the pub test. These are Malcolm Turnbull's own words – it has to pass the pub test. And this certainly does not appear to pass the pub test," said Opposition health spokeswoman Catherine King.
Independent MP Andrew Wilkie agrees: "Sussan Ley claims house purchase on taxpayer-funded trip was unplanned. Crap. Needs to fess up and stop treating us like idiots," he tweeted.
Arthur Sinodinos, who has also been recently linked to corruption allegations, will act as Minister for Health and Aged Care, and Minister for Sport.
At a time when the Coalition is attacking welfare recipients for misuse of Government funds, even threatening jail time, should Ms Ley’s actions be dealt with in the same manner?
Sussan Ley’s misuse of taxpayer funds is, unfortunately, not an uncommon occurrence, it’s just another instance of an MP caught out using public funds for personal gain.
According to ethicist Howard Whitton, every dollar an MP spends must be in the public interest, but it is typical for MPs to arrange official ‘work’ events to coincide with personal engagements.
When Malcolm Turnbull came into power, he reinforced ministerial guidelines for the use of public funds:
"Although their public lives encroach upon their private lives, it is critical that Ministers do not use public office for private purposes ... Ministers are expected to conduct all official business on the basis that they may be expected to demonstrate publicly that their actions and decisions ... were taken with the sole objective of advancing the public interest ...
"Ministers must be scrupulous in ensuring the legitimacy and accuracy of any claim for entitlement to ministerial, parliamentary or travel allowance."
Ms Ley’s actions clearly appear to contravene these rules. Her actions are pretty much indefensible. Her claim that the purchase was ‘an impulse buy’ further pokes a finger in the eye of the average Australian she is supposed to be serving.
Should she be sacked for this offence? That’s a call for the PM. Much of the Australian public seems to think so.
Let’s not forget that, as a senior minister, Ms Ley earns almost $340,000 per year. Her stepping aside ‘without ministerial pay’ will still mean she’ll earn over $199,000 p/a. Not exactly suitable penance. As Independent MP Nick Xenophon would say “like being slapped with a wet piece of lettuce”.
Ms Ley is also being questioned for using a private jet (to the tune of $12,000) instead of a commercial airline, as well as an $11,000 trip during which she and her domestic partner stopped in to watch a couple of cricket matches.
When Government MPs who earn a base salary of $199,000 p/a can claim $276 per night for travel allowance, while the average Newstart recipient is supposed to live on $264 per week, there is clearly something unjust about this situation.
The Government is so keen to go after welfare recipients with heavy handed, mafia-style tactics, and yet is lenient on its own people for committing the same fraudulent use of taxpayer money.
It’s true, too, that no party is exempt from this type of activity. Labor is just as guilty of the same misuse of public money. And, yes, they’re all making the right noises at the moment, but will one of the major parties join the Greens and Independents and actually commit to reforms against this type of practice?
The PM needs to step up and ask Sussan Ley to step down permanently. And if he’s to restore any faith in his party and Australian politics in general, he’d be smart to commence a federal investigation into the corruption being committed by the people we pay to run this country.
Do you think Malcolm Turnbull should sack Sussan Ley? Are you tired of repeated misuse of public money? Should MPs be held to a higher standard? Is it enough that Ms Ley only repays some of her misused entitlements?
Join YOURLifeChoices, it’s free
- Receive our daily enewsletter
- Enter competitions
- Comment on articles