Lalor MP Joanne Ryan has spent nearly $165,000 in six months on flights, a private-plated car and office and administrative supplies.
Among the high-priced items listed in the Department of Finance’s six-monthly expenditure report was a parliamentary delegation to Ecuador and Peru in January, which cost taxpayers more than $22,000.
Ms Ryan attended with former speaker Bronwyn Bishop, senators Ian Macfarlane and Anne McEwen, and fellow federal MP Ewen Jones.
The report also revealed eight trips to Canberra and back for Ms Ryan, costing at least $1000 each time, a monthly bill of $820 for the lease of a car, and $56,315 to cover printing and communication costs.
She defended her use of parliamentary entitlements, claiming her spending was no different to that of other MPs.
“The costs aren’t high,” Ms Ryan told Star Weekly. “When you take out the cost of the delegation, I fall within the spending range of most backbenchers – and I’m not a backbencher; I’m a whip.”
Federal MPs in neighbouring electorates spent less, with Gorton MP Brendan O’Connor toting up $138,455, Corangamite MP Sarah Henderson spending $119,667, and Gellibrand MP Tim Watts $107,355.
Ms Ryan said the Asia Pacific Parliamentary Forum, held in Ecuador and Peru, was attended by delegates from 27 countries.
Hot topics at the forum were the portability of pensions and worker compensation, climate change, strengthening peace and safety in the region, and trade, growth and investment.
“Was it worth Joanne Ryan – member for Lalor – the girl who grew up in Werribee, to go? Absolutely,” she said.
“The learning I did on that delegation is invaluable. There were many extra- ordinary benefits.
“I was active in diplomacy; and being at the table, not as an observer, but as a participant, was great.”
She said she also brought valuable information back to Australia from her visit.
Ms Ryan said the cost of airfares to and from Canberra were high because they were “flexi fares”, allowing them to be changed at any time.
“As a parliamentarian, things can always pop up so we need to be able to change our flights at the last minute,” she said.
On monthly car costs, she said MPs were given the option to have a private-plated vehicle or money to fund car travel.
She opted for the private-plated Toyota Camry Hybrid.
“To add to that, as a whip I’m also entitled to a vehicle in Canberra, which I choose not to take up,” she said.
The $56,000 for printing and communication, she said, helped her keep in touch with constituents, including letters welcoming new citizens, ‘welcome packs’ featuring vital information for people moving into the area, and three, yearly newsletters.