Sussan Ley has stepped aside without pay until investigations into travel claims are completed by the Department of the Prime Minister
Senator Arthur Sinodinos has been asked to act as Minister for Health and Aged Care, and Minister for Sport, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said in a statement released Monday.
Mr Turnbull said he asked the Secretary of his department to “thoroughly investigate” travel claims made by the Minister over the past few years.
“Australians expect the Government to deal with these serious matters very thoroughly and in accordance with the Statement of Ministerial Standards,” said Mr Turnbull.
“I expect the highest standards from my Ministers in all aspects of their conduct, and especially the expenditure of public money.”
ABC News analysed three years’ worth of the minister’s travel reports and found Ms Ley had travelled to the Gold Coast more than 20 times.
The trips altogether cost $53,877, the most expensive of these a flight taken in March 2015.
During one trip in 2015, Ms Ley purchased an almost-$800,000 apartment, a revelation that prompted calls for her resignation.
In a statement, Ms Ley apologised for the “error of judgement” and said it did “not meet the high standards” set by the Prime Minister.
“While attending an auction was not the reason for my visit to Queensland or the Gold Coast, I completely understand this changed the context of the travel undertaken,” she said.
Ms Ley has agreed to repay the money for four trips to the Gold Coast.
Labor’s health spokeswoman Catherine King told ABC radio on Monday: “Frankly, I don’t think she has got any choice but to resign.
“If she’s not willing to resign I don’t think Malcolm Turnbull has any choice but to step her down from the frontbench.
“Either his ministerial standards are there to be enforced or they’re not worth the paper they’re written on.”
Image from Commonwealth Secretariat, Flickr