Australian Finance Minister the latest caught up in MP expenses scandal

Mathias Cormann has billed taxpayers more than US$17,000 (S$24,000) for a number of weekend trips to beach town of Broome. PHOTO: TWITTER/@MATHIASCORMANN

CANBERRA (Xinhua) - Australia's MP expenses scandal has deepened on Sunday, with local media revealing the minister in charge of managing Parliamentary expenses, Mathias Cormann, has billed taxpayers more than US$17,000 (S$24,000) for a number of weekend trips to beach town of Broome.

Cormann, also the nation's Finance Minister, had already come under fire for his involvement in the scandal.

Last week it was revealed he claimed flights to attend the AFL Grand Final in 2013, where he received complementary tickets and hospitality.

But on Sunday, Fairfax Media revealed Cormann claimed more than US$17,000 on five trips to the picturesque coastal West Australian town of Broome, including one family trip totaling more than US$5,000 in 2014.

A spokesperson for Cormann said, as a Senator for Western Australia, it was important for the minister to continually meet with and listen to constituents and business leaders from around the state.

The spokesperson said the trips were "undertaken within the applicable rules on work expenses and has at all times been appropriately declared".

"Senator Cormann's job as a senator for Western Australia necessarily involves travel across his very large electorate to attend functions and meet with constituents, business and community stakeholders," the spokesperson told Fairfax Media.

The news comes two days after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull dismissed Health Minister Sussan Ley for abusing the entitlements scheme.

The minister used a taxpayer funded trip to purchase a luxury Gold Coast apartment worth more than US$600,000.

Turnbull also took the opportunity to announce changes to the parliamentary entitlements scheme.

He said the government would be establishing a watchdog to oversee and approve MP travel and expense claims.

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