Australian MP under fire for claiming travel expenses for family trip, pop concert outing

Mr Tony Burke.
Mr Tony Burke.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

An Australian MP is under fire for charging Australian taxpayers for his travel expenses for a family trip and an outing to watch a pop concert.

And he is also being accused of being a hypocrite, given that he has been a key critic of another MP who is embroiled in a scandal over her own travel claims, the BBC reported.

Mr Tony Burke, an MP in Australia's opposition Labor Party, spent A$12,000 (S$12,220) of public funds for a family holiday to Uluru, it said.

The chief Lower House strategist for Labor also claimed travel expenses for a trip to watch British pop star Robbie Williams in concert, the BBC quoted the local media as saying.

According to records from the Australian Department of Finance that are made available to the public, in April 2012 Mr Burke claimed A$2,181.43 for his return flight from Sydney to Uluru, as well as A$8,656.48 for four "family traveller" airfares.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation quoted his office as saying that Mr Burke, who was environment minister at the time, was travelling on official business in that capacity.

The scandal follows a similar scandal surrounding Parliament Lower House Speaker Bronwyn Bishop, whose travel expense claims Mr Burke was a vocal critic of.

The BBC reported that Ms Bishop, from the ruling Liberal Party, had flown by helicopter to a Liberal Party event instead of taking a car, and as a result claimed thousands of dollars from government coffers.

She had also charged taxpayers for her trips to attend the weddings of fellow politicians.

The allegations and ensuing outrage resulted in her submitting her resignation.

Even Prime Minister Tony Abbott has had to return money to the government that he claimed for travel expenses.

Mr Burke, in a statement on Wednesday quoted by the BBC, said his claims were legitimate.

"My criticism of Bronwyn Bishop was that she had broken the rules," he said.

"Today's articles explicitly acknowledge that there is no allegation that I have broken any of the rules at any point.

"The information provided in these articles is public because I made declarations in accordance with the rules," he added.