Taxpayers pay for MP to attend GF

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is in the firing line for using taxpayer funds to pay for her day at the AFL grand final on Saturday.

Ms Bishop has defended passing on the charges to the taxpayer, saying she was invited to the “significant international event” in an official capacity and that her travel claims were “within parliamentary entitlements”.

“The AFL is a significant international event and I support political leaders – the Prime Minister and Bill Shorten and others – attending the AFL Grand Final to show our support for this game and for the organisation,” Ms Bishop told Barrie Cassidy on Insiders.

“As Foreign Minister I work very closely with the AFL in our aid program, bringing the AFL sport to the Asia-Pacific. It is part of our aid program in the Pacific island nations.

“I was invited in my official capacity as a partner of the AFL and I was pleased to attend.”

Ms Bishop has previously been in the spotlight for her use of taxpayer funds to attend sporting events. Not only is this her fourth consecutive grand final appearance, but she’s also allegedly spent tens of thousands visiting towns in which her team, the West Coast Eagles, were playing. She’s also been accused of flaunting funds to attend the Portsea Polo match in 2016.

She was not the only Federal MP in attendance on Saturday. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, Greens leader Richard Di Natale and Health Minister Greg Hunt were also there.

Each year, Mr Turnbull and Mr Shorten speak at the AFL Grand Final Breakfast.

North Melbourne Football Club Chairman Ben Buckley joked about the MPs in attendance, saying, “Coincidentally at 5:30pm there’s an emergency meeting of the Federal Cabinet International Relations Committee in the Yarra Room at the MCG”.

Controversy and joking aside, it is within parliamentary rules for Federal MPs to use taxpayers’ money to attend sporting events in an official capacity.

Do you think it’s okay for MPs to charge taxpayers to attend sporting events? Or should the costs be borne by the organisations that have invited them? Is this another example of MP ‘entitlement’?

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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