02 August 2015
by Latika Bourke
Bronwyn Bishop resigns as Speaker
Prime Minister Tony Abbott announces Bronwyn Bishop will step down as Speaker of the House of Representatives following the parliamentary entitlements scandal.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced the resignation of his Speaker, Bronwyn Bishop, after weeks of furore surrounding her grandiose use of taxpayer-funded travel perks but refused to criticise his long-time "friend and colleague" suggesting that she was the victim of the system.
Mr Abbott unveiled a sweeping review into MPs' entitlements, saying a new system would restore public trust.
Bronwyn Bishop has resigned as federal Speaker after being caught up in an expenses scandal.
Mrs Bishop, who had stubbornly been refusing to resign despite more than two week of sustained pressure over her decision to hire, a $5000 private helicopter to fly from Melbourne to a Liberal fund-raiser in Geelong, cited her "love and respect" of the Parliament as the reason for her decision to go.
"I have not taken this decision lightly, however it is because of my love and respect for the institution of the Parliament and the Australian people that I have resigned as Speaker,"
"I look forward to continuing to serve the people of Mackellar as their local member."
Mrs Bishop and Peter Slipper are the only two speakers to be forced to resign in disgrace.
Despite claiming a major political scalp, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten criticised Mrs Bishop's departure as "overdue" and called on the Prime Minister to accept she had abused the system.
"Unfortunately Tony Abbott still won't accept that Bronwyn Bishop has done anything wrong," he said. "Mr Abbott has blamed the system, but it was Mrs Bishop's addiction to privilege that was the real culprit."
The Prime Minister, who in the past described himself as the ideological love-child of Mrs Bishop, refused to criticise his "friend and colleague" and praised her decision instead.
"Obviously Bronwyn Bishop is a friend of mine, I have a great deal of personal respect for Bronwyn Bishop," he said.
"And without wanting to underplay the significance of some of the errors of judgment which she herself has conceded and apologised for, I think she's certainly done the right thing," he said. "This has obviously been a very difficult day for Bronwyn Bishop … I think we should respect the fact that it's been a very difficult day for her."
Mrs Bishop faced further claims that she chartered a private flight worth $6000 to travel to the NSW South Coast for a party fund-raiser and racked up more than $1000 on private limos on the same day she attended a theatre premiere in her home city of Sydney.
They came after her grovelling apology last week in which she agreed her decision to charter a helicopter was "ridiculous", despite previously refusing to say sorry for what she described as an "error of judgement"
While MPs regularly schedule parliamentary work to coincide with political and personal events, they usually provide a record of what public work they did to justify their expense claim. Mrs Bishop's case was unique in that she repeatedly refused to provide any evidence of official business.
The Prime Minister insisted the problem was the system, not the individual user.
"What has become apparent is that the problem is not any particular individual, the problem is the entitlements system more generally," he said. "This will not be a quickie review."
Mr Abbott said a wide-ranging review into MPs' entitlements to be conducted by former finance secretary David Tune and Remuneration Tribunal chair John Conde would establish a brand new system.
He said voters should be thankful for the root and branch review.
"I think we should also be grateful that something has been done here that will resolve this vexed question of entitlements, as far is humanly possible once and for all," he said.
The Department of Finance's review into 10 years worth of Mrs Bishop's travel claims will still go ahead and is due to report back "as soon as possible". Labor says the former Speaker will agree to release the findings of the investigation if she is genuinely sorry.