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Independent body to oversee MPs expenses

AAP logoAAP 3 days ago Lisa Martin

A new independent authority will be established to monitor the work expenses of federal politicians following a fortnight of controversy surrounding travel entitlement claims.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull flagged the move after announcing the resignation of his Health Minister Sussan Ley from the frontbench after an investigation into revelations she bought property on the Gold Coast during a taxpayer-funded trip.

"We have to go that extra mile or two or three to demonstrate that our ... expenses are appropriate," Mr Turnbull told reporters in Sydney.

The new authority will be governed by an independent board and will include a person experienced in auditing, the president of the remuneration tribunal, a former judicial officer and a former MP.

It would also be able to provide advice and rulings to MPs and senators, he said.

There will be monthly disclosures of parliamentarians' expenses in an accessible and searchable format.

Mr Turnbull said Australia was looking to the United Kingdom's model.

"Australians are entitled to expect that politicians spend taxpayers' money carefully, ensuring at all times that their work expenditure represents an efficient, effective and ethical use of public resources," he said.

"We owe the people of Australia the greatest transparency and the greatest accountability."

He defended the coalition government's slow action on the expenses issue since the 2015 resignation of Bronwyn Bishop as Speaker after revelations she chartered a helicopter costing taxpayers $5227 to fly to a party fundraiser.

Mr Turnbull cited the federal election in July as an interruption to the reform process.

Labor's acting leader Penny Wong said her party gave in-principle support to the prime minister's proposal for an independent agency to audit MPs' expenses.

"I think Australians do want wholesale reform of this area, and they will want this body overseen by someone they have trust in," she told reporters in Adelaide.

Greens leader Richard Di Natale said the independent agency must sit within a broader framework of a federal corruption watchdog to ensure there's "an end to the constant drumbeat of scandals" to come out of this government.

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie called for a retrospective audit of federal politicians' travels claims covering the last two parliaments.

He also said parliamentary travel should include disclosure of all substantive activities - private as well as official.

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