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Liberal senator Lucy Gichuhi bills taxpayers $12,000 for five Sydney trips

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The South Australian senator, who joined the Liberal party earlier this year, is under increasing pressure to explain her use of taxpayer-funded expenses.

Liberal senator Lucy Gichuhi reportedly billed taxpayers $12,000 for five trips to Sydney for "electorate business", despite her electorate being South Australia.

Senator Gichuhi is under increasing pressure to explain her use of taxpayer-funded expenses, as she told a Kenyan TV program her $200,000 salary was “not a lot of money”.

Parliamentary travel records show Senator Gichuhi claimed "electorate business" expenses for a trip to Sydney in late April last year, claiming more than $2,000 in flights and two nights of accommodation.

She reportedly also spent more than $4,400 for a five-night stay in Sydney (which included flights for a family member), $2,000 for one night in Sydney to speak at the African Professionals in Australia Gala Dinner in November, and up to $4,000 for two one-night trips to Sydney.

Politicians are allowed generous travel entitlements and they are allowed to claim some family travel too, up to three return fares each year.

But the travel must only be claimed for family members if the politician is travelling for “parliamentary business”.

Lucy Gichuhi, centre, arrives for her swearing in ceremony at Parliament House in Canberra on 9 May 2017.
Gichuhi, centre, arrives for her swearing in ceremony at Parliament House in Canberra on 9 May 2017.
AAP

Senator agrees to pay back $2,139

Over the weekend, Senator Gichuhi agreed to pay back $2,139 she claimed in taxpayer-funded travel for two relatives attending her birthday party in Adelaide last year.

The senator told her Twitter followers she had made an “administrative error involving misunderstanding of travel rules”.

The flights were disclosed on her parliamentary interests register in four payments – two charges worth around $800 on October 26 and two more valued at $300 on October 31.

Senator Gichuhi joined the Liberal party in February, improving the Coalition’s numbers in the Senate.

She was originally a recount as a Family First senator when the party’s former leader Bob Day was ejected by the High Court.

Asked about the Adelaide flights on Tasmanian local radio, treasurer Scott Morrison said his colleague had been "upfront" about her mistake. 

"I obviously don’t share Lucy’s view that that is not a large amount of money," Mr Morrison said.

"If someone gets something wrong they should fix it and they should front up about it, which is what Lucy did and I think that is the best way to deal with it."

"I think she has been pretty honest about it."

'$200K is not a lot of money'

A video clip of Senator Gichuhi's appearance on Jeff Koinange Live, a Kenyan TV program, in January has gone viral. 

When asked by the host how much she was paid, the senator replied: "$200,000 Australian dollars … in a whole year that’s not a lot of money."

She also said her salary was on the public record.

"Yes, my salary it is somewhere on the website, I don't look at it because it comes into the bank, but it's not a lot of money by the way," she said.

"Politicians, and I mean Australian politicians, work so hard 24/7, nobody, and I mean nobody can compensate them for the work they do."

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