Australia’s Prime Minister TonyAbbott turned mummy’s boy and put the 72-year-old Bronwyn Bishop on “probation”. Photo / AP
Tony Abbott once described himself as the ideological love child of
prime ministerial predecessor John Howard and his Government’s grand old
dame, Bronwyn Bishop.
It was a line that made people squirm.
Bishop – a theatre lover currently playing the pantomime villain in
Australia’s “Choppergate” scandal – said the birth was a result of
Behind her shiny exterior is a sharp wit
and steely demeanour that used to prompt comparisons to Margaret
Thatcher. And when it comes to extravagant and indefensible largesse on
the taxpayer’s tab, a defiant Bishop has made it abundantly clear she is
not for turning.
After running up annual expenses just shy of a
million dollars, Australia’s parliamentary Speaker says she can’t see
what all the fuss is about.
So yesterday morning it was left to
Abbott, with near-universal calls for action ringing in his ears, to
relieve Bishop of her weighty civic duties.
And how did he respond? Australia’s Prime Minister turned mummy’s boy and put the 72-year-old grandmother on “probation”.
was another bizarre team captain’s call, and the guffaws had barely
subsided as talk turned – yet again – to the kind of political judgment
that almost saw Abbott ditched by his colleagues this year. Coalition
MPs had hoped to begin this week by piling pressure on embattled
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and his party’s infighting over carbon
pricing ahead of Labor’s upcoming national conference. But Choppergate
has blown those tactics off course.
Party strategists agree. What
began with a A$5000 ($5601)-plus helicopter hop across Port Phillip Bay
from Melbourne to Geelong for a party fundraiser has morphed into wider
revelations that make Bishop’s spending look anything but isolated.
Last year, she claimed more than A$800,000 in expenses, including almost
A$90,000 on an overseas trip and at one point spent A$1000 a day on
Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Photo / AFP
Bishop represents the McKellar electorate that adjoins
Abbott’s own on Sydney’s northern beaches – a key stronghold for the
Liberal Party’s dominant right-wing base.
Former party leader Dr
John Hewson is one of many “staggered” that the PM is either unable or
unwilling to make the politically smart decision to dump Bishop. “I
suspect they’ve put the barricades up and they’re going to fight this at
enormous political cost,” he told Sky News. “I just think it’s pretty
bad short-term politics and it’ll end in tears for a lot of people.”
said yesterday that Bishop had “copped a justifiable hiding”. He added:
“I can really understand why people are unhappy about this. Frankly,
I’m unhappy about it as well.” He argued the Speaker was “very, very
contrite” after repaying the cost of the trip and a A$1300 fine. Bishop
insists she acted within the rules, and has refused to apologise or
A Finance Department inquiry into her expenses is
understood to also be looking at a second helicopter trip and two
charter flights to party fundraisers.
News.com.au reported that in 2014 Bishop claimed (in Australian dollars):
$309,581.99 in overseas trips
$47,086.14 in domestic trips
$32,471.12in limousine travel
$350,909.63 in office costs