Bishop spent $1000 a day on private limousines


Despite mounting pressure over an expenses scandal, Speaker Bronwyn Bishop was wearing a smile when she finally fronted the cameras this weekend.

A defiant Bronwyn Bishop will not step down as Speaker, nor apologise for charging taxpayers to attend a Liberal fundraiser in a helicopter.

It has also emerged that on a taxpayer funded $90,000 two week trip to Europe she spent almost $1000 a day on limos.

Fairfax media has reported that during the Europe trip Ms Bishop spent almost $14,000 on private limousines.

The trip was for her and two staff members while she was seeking a job as the president of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, a democracy group based in Switzerland.

After days of flying under the radar, the parliamentary veteran admitted on Saturday she had made an "error of judgment".

But she says it should not cost her her job.

"You don't resign for an error of judgment if it's within the guidelines," Mrs Bishop told reporters.

She conceded that a $5227 bill for an 80-kilometre trip to Geelong was "unacceptable".

However, she stopped short of offering the public an apology.

"I think the biggest apology one can make is to repay the money," she said.

Despite her commitment to repay the cost of the flight, Mrs Bishop insisted she did not contravene parliamentary guidelines when she chartered the helicopter.

She has asked the Finance Department to investigate two other chartered flights she took to speaking engagements in Nowra and Young last year, which may also have involved fundraisers.

Asked whether she is likely to hire a helicopter again, a smiling Mrs Bishop replied: "I think not."

Prime Minister Tony Abbott backed the Speaker, insisting he will not ask her to step down.

"She's done the right thing, she's a good Speaker, she has my confidence," he told reporters in Queensland.

"I don't think it's appropriate for people to stand aside simply because the Finance Department might be having a look at something."

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Mr Abbott needed to stop protecting his political mentor.

"The arrogance of Tony Abbott and Bronwyn Bishop is breathtaking," he said.

Labor waste watch spokesman Pat Conroy says Mrs Bishop should seriously consider resigning.

He is demanding the Australian Federal Police investigate whether she made a false statement when she signed a Finance Department form stating the charter was for "official business".

He wrote a second letter to the AFP on Saturday after it declined a request on Friday to investigate the matter.

An AFP spokeswoman said the matter would instead be investigated by the Finance Department under the Minchin protocol, "the agreed protocol for dealing with matters of this nature".

That is despite the AFP having investigated former Speaker Peter Slipper in 2012 over allegations he misused taxi dockets.

At the time, a Finance Department spokesman told AAP the Minchin protocol did not apply where an allegation was referred directly to the AFP.

Mr Conroy said the AFP's response is "inconsistent".

"Is anyone seriously suggesting the Department of Finance should be investigating supposed criminal actions?" he told reporters in Newcastle.

"Is [Mrs Bishop] seriously claiming on that form that going to a Liberal fundraiser using $5000 of taxpayers' money was part of being Speaker of the House of Representatives?"

Mr Conroy's letter says the Minchin protocol is "no impediment" to a police investigation into Mrs Bishop's conduct and is merely an administrative policy.

"This simple administrative policy cannot override the statutory obligation to investigate and prosecute crime which is imposed on the Australian Federal Police," it says.

Source: AAP

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