Ley steps aside from health ministry
Published: 09 January 2017
PM’s office to investigate expense usage
The Gold Coast building where Sussan Ley’s apartment is located – Commonwealth car not pictured
Image © 2017 AAP Image/Scott Bailey
Health Minister Sussan Ley will stand aside after the prime minister ordered an investigation into her use of taxpayer-funded trips to the Gold Coast.
Malcolm Turnbull says the embattled minister will forgo ministerial pay until an investigation by the secretary of his department Martin Parkinson is complete.
"I expect the highest standards from my ministers in all aspects of their conduct, and especially the expenditure of public money," he said in a statement on Monday.
Ms Ley fronted the media for the first time since the scandal over her taxpayer-funded trips to the Gold Coast broke last week, insisting she had nothing to hide and was hopeful of returning to the portfolio.
She dismissed the scandal as a distraction to the government's agenda but admitted she hadn't been able to ignore the intense interest and speculation.
"I'm very confident that the investigations will demonstrate that no rules were broken whatsoever," she told reporters in Albury.
"I recognise that for people who live in my electorate, who work hard, who understand about living on fixed incomes and have experienced a life I've experienced in the past, this has a look that I don't understand those issues and I don't recognise them.
"In fact the opposite is the case."
Monday's announcement follows revelations Ms Ley bought a $795,000 apartment from a Liberal Party donor during a taxpayer-funded trip to the Gold Coast in 2015.
It's also been revealed she claimed travel costs to the Gold Coast for New Year's Eve celebrations in 2013 and 2014.
After initially dismissing the purchase of the apartment as an impulse buy, Ms Ley finally admitted on Sunday it was an "error of judgment", vowing to pay back expenses for the trip.
She has asked the Finance Department to review all of her ministerial travel to the Gold Coast and will adjust her claims for another three occasions involving travel to the Gold Coast.
On Monday, she insisted her trip to the Gold Coast on May 9, 2015 to meet with a cancer patient about access to medicines was booked in before her husband told her about the apartment the night before the auction.
A taxpayer-funded car was booked to take her from Brisbane to her Gold Coast hotel, then to the auction "two minutes away".
She insisted the purchase was "last-minute" but admitted she should have adjusted her claim based on the personal nature of the trip.
Ms Ley also defended her New Year's Eve jaunts, claiming she travelled to the Gold Coast at the invitation of a prominent Queensland businesswoman, for a business lunch in 2013 and then a New Year's Eve event in 2014.
She claimed flights and taxis to the lunch but did not claim accommodation for either event, she said.
Cabinet secretary Arthur Sinodinos will step in as acting health minister.
© 2017 AAP