Australia’s Minister for Health, aged care and sports, Sussan Ley, resigned on Friday in the wake of a travel entitlements scandal.
The scandal has forced Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, to set up an independent parliamentary expenses authority.
Last week it was revealed that Ley had undertaken taxpayer-funded official trips for personal use, where she bought herself an apartment and attended New Year’s Eve function.
Turnbull said Ley had reached the decision to tender her resignation after extensive discussions.
“She has made a judgment that is, I believe, in the interests of the government,’’ he said in Sydney.
“As politicians, backbenchers and ministers, we should be as careful and as accountable with taxpayers’ money as we possibly can be we are dealing with other people’s money,’’ Turnbull said.
Earlier this week, Turnbull had ordered an investigation into Ley’s travel claims, while she stood aside without ministerial pay, but he did not comment on the findings of the investigation.
Ley and her partner had bought an apartment worth 581,000 U.S. dollars during a ministerial trip to the Gold Coast in Queensland in May 2015.
She has agreed to pay back some of the costs for her Gold Coast trips, while maintaining that she did not break any rules by buying the apartment, as the purchase “was neither planned nor anticipated.’’
On Friday, Ley said she was confident she had followed the rules.
“I am confident that I have followed the rules, not just regarding entitlements but most importantly the ministerial code of conduct’’ she said in her resignation letter to the prime minister.
Ley, who has been a health minister since 2014, said she was working with the government inquiry into her travel claims and compliance with ministerial standards.
“Whilst I have attempted at all times to be meticulous with rules and standards, I accept community annoyance, even anger, with politicians’ entitlements demands a response,’’ she said in the letter.
Turnbull’s government has been engulfed with entitlements scandals since the controversy surrounding Ley emerged, with reports of other ministers and politicians using taxpayer-funded official trips for personal reasons.
Local broadcaster ABC reported Australia’s foreign minister, Julie Bishop, had claimed expenses for a total of 11,000 dollars to attend five polo events and a rugby game on “official ministerial business.’’
Similarly, Trade Minister Steven Ciobo and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann had attended an Australian rules football match, while Immigration Minister Peter Dutton charged 4,000 dollars for a gala dinner with friends in Washington DC, according to reports.
Last year, a state minister in Victoria had to apologise for using taxpayer-funded chauffeur to transport his dogs to his country house.
Earlier, speaker of the House of Representatives, Bronwyn Bishop, was forced to resign in 2015 after it was revealed that she had used 5,200 dollars in public funds to charter a helicopter to fly to a political fundraiser.
Turnbull announced new measures and an independent agency to manage and monitor work expenses and adjudicate all claims by the lawmakers, as well as ministers, “to ensure taxpayer funds are properly spent.’’
“Australians are entitled to expect that politicians spend taxpayers’ money carefully, ensuring at all times that their work expenditure represents an efficient, effective and ethical use of public resources,’’ he said.
He said the parliamentarians’ expenses will be made accessible monthly and in a searchable format.
“We owe the people of Australia the greatest transparency and the greatest accountability,’’ he said.