Australian parliamentary speaker resigns over expenses claim

Bronwyn Bishop resigns over accusations of using public funds for travel expenses

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Speaker of the Australian House of Representatives Bronwyn Bishop has resigned following a scandal over her travel expenses on Sunday.

The scandal-hit Bishop is accused of using public funds to charter a helicopter to attend a political fundraiser and wedding ceremonies. Fifteen other flights which Bishop claimed for her work were revealed by the Australian media after the scandal surfaced.

Bishop apologised for the expenses claims on Sunday, saying she paid the money back with a penalty.

"I have today [Sunday] written to the Governor-General and tendered my resignation as Speaker of the House of Representatives effective immediately," she was quoted by ABC as saying in a statement. 

"I have not taken this decision lightly, however it is because of my love and respect for the institution of Parliament and the Australian people that I have resigned as Speaker." 

Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who is an ally of Bishop, said the resignation was the right decision and there will be a review of the entitlements system. Abbott, who also paid back his travel expenses in the past, said an investigation has been opened into the accusations against Bishop covering the last 10 years.

“It has become apparent over the last few weeks, particularly in recent days, that the system does need fundamental reform. That’s exactly what there will be under this government because the public deserves it,” Abbott told reporters.

The opposition said the resignation was "overdue and unrepentant," criticising Abbott's handling of the scandal.

“Unfortunately Tony Abbott still won’t accept that Bronwyn Bishop has done anything wrong. Mr Abbott has blamed the system, but it was Mrs Bishop’s addiction to privilege that was the real culprit," Labor leader Bill Shorten told ABC. 

"Mrs Bishop hasn’t resigned because it was the right thing to do, it was because she and Mr Abbott realised they had no other choice.” 

TRTWorld and agencies