Health Minister stands aside

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

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  1. Jarrod McMaugh

    Wow, the power of the media

    • Paige

      Corruption is corruption Jarrod. A similar stunt in almost any other job may see her arrested for fraud and at the very least dismissed. Even if shes telling the truth that she impulsively spent $800k on an apartment is that the person we want calling the shots in the Australian health industry?

      • Jarrod McMaugh

        My point on this is that we don’t know anywhere near the half of it.

        Let’s put it this way – I have to travel to Canberra from time to time. If I do so and I look at the real estate in the area while I’m there to familiarise myself with the market, then is that inappropriate?

        Once I’ve familiarised myself with the market and decided I want to purchase something, is it inappropriate to then look in to what is at Auction while I’m in town next time?

        From what has been in the media, it would seem that the minister is being hung out to dry, not for what has happened, but for the appearance of what has happened.

        Now don’t get me wrong, if she booked flights (especially chartered flights) in order to be able to suit her personal timeline, then that’s an issue and she should admit to it with all that entails.

        On the other hand, if what she has done is no different to what any person would do during their personal time while on a business trip, then not only should she not go, but there should be public apologies to her.

        The reality is, Ministers don’t often get a lot of free days to be able to do their own business, so conducting personal business while on a business trip – so long as it isn’t “on the clock”; or travel arrangements are altered to suit personal rather than official business, then what’s the big deal?

        As I said originally, “Wow, the power of the media” – we have a minister being set aside (probably permanently) due to the accusations, not due to facts

        • Leopold Hamulczyk

          It’s not just the apartment. It’s flights and accommodation as well. Shades of Bronwyn Bishop. Time to say if it’s not immediately work-related, pay for it yourself.
          Fundraisers and attending to donors (and New Year’s eve parties) is not government business. Perhaps the chartering of aircraft should also be banned for all but the most senior politicians (eg Prime Minister).

          • Jarrod McMaugh

            As I said, if what she has done has been during official business, then it’s all legitimate.

            If she’s made special trips, or stayed longer (therefore needing further accommodation), or incurred increased costs on the taxpayer to facilitate her personal business, then that’s worth censuring.

            but if she had a trip for official business from day 1 to day 5 , and on day 3 during her down time she did personal stuff, who cares?

            At this point, we know there’s an investigation. Is further speculation on it changing anything? Is it or the benefit of the taxpayer, or selling newspapers.

            There are plenty of other reasons to look at Ley’s ministerial-ship and call for change – this just feels cheap.

      • Simon O'Halloran

        I claimed travel and accommodation to attend a conference once. The conference didn’t run for 24 hours uninterrupted for the entire 3 days, as such in the downtime on day 2 I impulsively went for a coffee. I did not claim said coffee as it was not directly associated with my attendance at the conference. The price of said coffee was not relevant in my opinion, however if the media must know it was $4.20. I know it was a risky stunt and may jeopardise my employment and $200k per year pension, but hey, what was I going to do with the time not directly related with my obligations of the conference.

        • PharmOwner

          I think the point of the furore is that Minister Ley claimed rather large travel expenses for “business purposes”, when in fact she was there to purchase a luxury apartment. Her claim that she only learned of the apartment auction the night before and bought impulsively does not stack up. Who buys an $800,000 apartment on the spur of the moment? Anyone with an ounce of sense takes the time to do their due diligence, find out body corp fees, other apartments in the area, check out any future developements, roadwork proposals. It’s not something you decide to do in one day.

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