As Sydney struggled through a marathon lockdown, Anthony Albanese claimed $17,169 in travel allowance from taxpayers to stay in his Canberra flat
Labor leader Anthony Albanese claimed $17,169 in travel allowance from taxpayers to stay at his mortgage-free Canberra apartment for 59 nights during Sydney’s marathon lockdown while staging “guerilla” campaign missions into Queensland and Tasmania.
News.com.au can reveal Mr Albanese claimed a travel allowance for 74 nights in Canberra, Queensland and Tasmania, while Parliament was only sitting for 19 days during the same period.
By basing himself in the nation’s capital during the lockdowns in NSW and Victoria, Mr Albanese was able to campaign in Queensland while the Prime Minister remained largely locked down in Sydney and unable to travel.
During that period he claimed more than $21,020 in travel allowance including $17,169 in Canberra which he used as a staging post to run missions into Queensland and Tasmania despite border controls requiring Sydneysiders to quarantine.
Mr Albanese’s register of interest declaring his assets to Parliament confirms Mr Albanese owns three homes – his Marrickville residence, a Dulwich Hill investment property and his Canberra apartment.
His declaration confirms there is no mortgage on the Canberra property. He does hold a mortgage for his Dulwich Hill investment property.
MPs can choose to stay in a hotel or use the generous $291 a night travel allowance payment to pay off their mortgages, bump up their salary and spend as they see fit.
It’s a long standing tradition of veteran MPs to claim travel allowance to stay in apartments they own in Canberra and is completely legal under the current rules.
Another Victorian Liberal MP Tim Wilson also claimed $37,000 this year to stay in an apartment he owns in Canberra.
According to Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority reports, Mr Albanese claimed more than $21,000 for travel to Canberra, Queensland and Tasmania.
Mr Albanese’s Canberra sojourn also included some periods of quarantine as was required for NSW MPs travelling to Canberra.
But while he stayed in hotels interstate he was living in a Canberra apartment he owned while claiming $291 a night in travel allowance.
He flew from Sydney to Brisbane on June 9 before campaigning in Townsville and Cairns.
He then returned to Sydney on June 10 before returning to Canberra on July 20. By flying to Canberra he was then in a position after spending several weeks there to fly to Brisbane without quarantining.
Mr Albanese flew to Queensland on July 5 before campaigning in Mackay, Brisbane and Gladstone. He returned to Brisbane on July 8 before running further trips his office has described as “guerilla missions” into Moranbah, Emerald and Brisbane again over July 11 to 13.
He then flew back to Canberra for a week on July 13 allowing him to then campaign in Tasmania on July 19.
Mr Albanese then flew to Canberra on July 21 before flying straight onto Queensland on the same day travelling to Brisbane and Rockhampton.
He was back in Canberra on July 27 before finally returning to Sydney on September 3.
Confirmation of Mr Albanese’s travel allowances come amid revelations that Assistant Industry Minister Tim Wilson claimed 95 nights of travel allowance in Canberra during Melbourne’s lockdown.
Between May 23 and September 26, Mr Wilson claimed his Canberra-related travel expenses courtesy of the taxpayer, including 29 nights in Canberra at $291 per night during the second quarter of 2021.
During the same period he also booked hire car trips in Melbourne, likely to collect him at Melbourne airport on return from Canberra.
Under the rules he can also claim spousal travel, all contributing to a grand total of $37,494.02.
A spokesman for Mr Wilson said his 95 nights in Canberra was a reflection of the demands that MPs quarantine in Canberra for a fortnight in preparation for Parliamentary sitting weeks, committee work, parliamentary sittings and a “response to the risk” that the border might close again.
“Across 2020 and 2021, Assistant Minister Wilson spent a month in quarantine due to border controls imposed by State and Territory Governments to attend Parliament and Chair Parliamentary Committees,’’ Mr Wilson’s spokesman said.
“After returning to Melbourne on Friday June 25, 2021 after the final June sitting week, Assistant Minister Wilson flew to Brisbane and then Rockhampton in July to participate in Exercise Talisman Sabre as part of the Australian Defence Force Parliamentary Program.”
Mr Wilson’s office said there was no holiday element to the trip to Queensland, it was entirely work-related.
On his decision to return to Canberra on July 22, the spokesman said Mr Wilson had needed to make a judgement call about whether to return to Victoria, due to the risk of border closures.
Politicians could seek exemptions to travel from Victoria to Canberra for parliamentary sittings, but if Mr Wilson had returned to his electorate, this would have then required another round of quarantine if he returned to Canberra.
“Upon completion of the Exercise, the Assistant Minister returned to Canberra because of the risk of border closures that could have prohibited him from attending Parliament,’’ a spokesman said.
“Upon the completion of the Parliamentary sitting fortnights in August (3 Aug to 12 Aug 23 Aug to 2 Sept) he had to Chair a series of Economics Committee hearings in Canberra and couldn’t concurrently facilitate quarantine obligations to enter Victoria and the ACT (two weeks in each direction).
Given these quarantine obligations and the fact that the Committee Secretariat is based in Canberra, the prudent course of action was to remain in Canberra between Parliamentary sitting fortnights so he could fulfil his responsibilities.”
During this six-week period in Canberra, Mr Wilson remained separated from his husband who remained in lockdown in Melbourne.
After returning to Canberra after his Queensland trip on July 22, Canberra also then entered a lockdown on August 12.
“Assistant Minister Wilson returned to Melbourne once quarantine rules were eased and it was confirmed that his swearing-in ceremony as Assistant Minister was to take place virtually,’’ a spokesman said.
“The Assistant Minister prefers to hire a car and drive himself in Canberra, not use the chauffeur-driven ComCar service.”