Sussan Ley Stands Aside From Ministry; Investigation Into Gold Coast Travel Expenses

The Minister for Health, Sussan Ley, has stood aside from the Turnbull ministry, pending an investigation into her travel expenses.

Ley

The Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet will investigate her travel expenses in relation to visits to the Gold Coast over the past couple of years. During one visit, Ley purchased an investment property. The Health department will also conduct an investigation.

Ley will stand aside without ministerial pay, until the investigation is completed. Senator Arthur Sinodinos will act as Minister for Health and Aged Care, and Minister for Sport.

At her press conference in Albury, Ley denied any wrongdoing.  In a statement issued yesterday, she apologised for an “error of judgement”.

Ley is the first ministerial casualty of the Turnbull government since last year’s election. After replacing Tony Abbott in September 2015, Turnbull lost three ministers in his first five months as prime minister.

Statement from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull

Travel claims by the Minister for Health

Today I have asked the Secretary of my Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet for advice in relation to the Statement of Ministerial Standards relating to travel claims made by the Minister for Health, Aged Care and Sport, the Hon Sussan Ley MP.

The Secretary will thoroughly investigate the travel claims and the Minister has assured me that she will promptly provide all information and assistance sought by the Secretary for the purpose of this investigation.

Australians expect the Government to deal with these serious matters very thoroughly and in accordance with the Statement of Ministerial Standards.

I expect the highest standards from my Ministers in all aspects of their conduct, and especially the expenditure of public money.

The Minister has agreed to stand aside without ministerial pay until this investigation is completed by the Secretary.

I have asked Senator the Honourable Arthur Sinodinos AO to act as Minister for Health and Aged Care, and Minister for Sport.

Statement released by Health Minister Sussan Ley on January 8, 2017.

I have spent the past 48 hours examining my travel records.

I travelled to Brisbane on 9 May 2015 to make a major announcement about the availability of new medicines at a specialist breast cancer clinic and to meet with patients in Brisbane and on the Gold Coast. As I had to be in Canberra on Sunday 10 May I decided to stay the night of 9 May on the Gold Coast rather than incur considerable extra expense by flying back to Albury and then to Canberra the following day. This travel is within the rules provided.

However, I have always sought to apply higher standards for myself in using valuable taxpayers’ funds.

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. The distinction between public and private business should be as clear as possible when dealing with taxpayers’ money.

I have spoken to the Prime Minister and he agrees that this claim does not meet the high standards he expects of Ministers. I apologise for the error of judgement.

Tomorrow I will ask the Department of Finance to invoice me for the costs for the car and travel allowance claimed on Saturday 9 May 2015, including the relevant penalty applied to erroneous claims.

My examination of my travel records has also brought to my attention two other claims for accommodation on the Gold Coast in 2014 and 2015 where I should have stayed and claimed in Brisbane, as well as a single one-way flight from Coolangatta to Canberra in June 2015.

I will also ask the Department of Finance to invoice me the costs of these claims, as well as the relevant penalty.

In the interests of total transparency, I will ask the department to review all my ministerial travel to the Gold Coast.

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