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Liberal MP billed taxpayers to fly to Melbourne’s Derby Day races

Federal Liberal MP Steve Irons was married in Melbourne in 2011. Photo: Guy Magowan Steve Irons with his wife, Cheryle. Photo: Twitter
Nanjing Night Net

Turnbull government MP Steve Irons has spent nearly $17,000 on unexplained “electorate business” 3500 kilometres from his home, including charging taxpayers to travel to Melbourne’s Spring Racing Carnival just days after billing the public for flights to his own wedding.

The Coalition backbencher has already repaid more than $10,000 in travel claims after conducting a “self-audit” in 2013, including for flights for Mr Irons and his wife Cheryle​ to attend sporting events, as well as their 2011 wedding.

A Fairfax Media analysis of travel declarations by Mr Irons shows the MP has claimed at least five inter-state trips as electorate business, despite the destination being nowhere near his Perth-based seat of Swan. These include:

Just three days after charging taxpayers for flights home from the October 2011 wedding, Mr Irons billed taxpayers to fly himself and his wife back to Melbourne for Victoria Derby Day at a cost of more than $2000. He was hosted at Flemington Racecourse by Perth-based investment group CFC and later flew to Canberra for Parliament.

An October 21 overnight trip to Melbourne for a Sports Australia hall of fame event at a cost of $665, during a parliamentary sitting week.

More than $2100 for return flights to Sydney in July 2014.

Two further trips to Melbourne in August 2014 and May 2015, one accompanied by his wife, at a cost of almost $12,000.

Flights, Comcars and travel allowance for the five electorate business trips cost $16,795.84.

Despite repeated requests for comment, Mr Irons would not explain the reason for his travel. A spokeswoman said the trips had been reviewed and were “in accordance with the departments’ travel rules”.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s office would not comment, referring questions to Special Minister of State Scott Ryan.

Mr Irons also declared receiving free tickets to the 2015 AFL grand final, staying on in Melbourne after chairing a parliamentary committee hearing to attend the game.

An avid sports lover and chair of the Parliament’s friends of sport group, Mr Irons billed taxpayers to attend a Gold Coast golf tournament last year, including his $1875 flight and $258 for accommodation, which he also claimed as electorate business.

Mrs Irons returned to Perth with her husband following their wedding, travel which was within the rules as she was attending an official function with the Queen.

When pressed about why the couple charged taxpayers for flights back to Melbourne three days after the wedding, Mr Irons’ spokeswoman would not explain but official declarations show the couple attended Derby Day.

The Abbott government ordered a review of travel entitlements last year, after a series of scandals including former speaker Bronwyn Bishop charging taxpayers $5277 for a helicopter charter to a Liberal fundraiser.

The review found the system was too ambiguous and lacked transparency. It recommended a new standard definition of parliamentary business be introduced.

Independents Andrew Wilkie and Cathy McGowan called for action on the review this week, including for MPs to be required to disclose the substantive business of their travel.

Senator Ryan said the government supported the recommendations of the review in principle and was working to provide a clear definition of “parliamentary business” and improved reporting methods.

“As outlined in the review, significant legislative changes are required to streamline the parliamentary work expenses system,” he said.

“There are currently 12 acts of parliament, three determinations from the Remuneration Tribunal and a number of specific areas subject to executive authority exercised by the Prime Minister or Special Minister of State which make up the legal framework of the expenses system.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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