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Labor calls on Sussan Ley to explain property purchase while on taxpayer-funded trip

Labor has called on Health Minister Sussan Ley to explain why she bought an investment property on the Gold Coast during a taxpayer-funded trip classified as official business.

The opposition's health spokeswoman Catherine King said Ms Ley must "front up today and explain" or resign.

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Minister's expensive impulse buy

There are calls for Health Minister Sussan Ley to be sacked after revelations she bought a unit on the Gold Coast, while on a taxpayer funded trip with her husband.

Ms Ley said she had not planned to buy a Gold Coast ocean view apartment during a trip to Brisbane in May 2015 for a government announcement about an expansion of drugs included in the ​Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

In a statement, Ms Ley's office said the minister travelled to the Gold Coast for meetings with health stakeholders after the announcement, but her purchase of the $795,000 Main Beach property had been unexpected.

Ms Ley's husband accompanied her on the trip. She claimed the standard $370 politicians' travel allowance, while her husband travelled under family travel expense rules, bringing the cost to more than $3900.

"The property purchase was not planned nor anticipated," a spokeswoman for the minister said. 


"The Entitlements Management Branch was consulted at the time to confirm Ms Ley's partner's travel was within the rules.

"All travel undertaken was in accordance with the rules." 

On Friday, Urban Infrastructure Minister Paul Fletcher avoided answering questions about Ms Ley's travel expenses five times, each time referring journalists to Ms Ley's statement. 

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said his colleague was in Queensland on legitimate government business. 

"We don't concoct a $1.3 billion medical announcement. She was there for work and she had other reasons to," he said. 

"The fact that this happened concurrently was not the reason she was there. She went there for a $1.3 billion announcement, and that's part of your job, that's what you do."

Asked if the public would accept Ms Ley's explanation or if she should detail which stakeholders she met on the trip, Mr Joyce said those questions were for the minister. 

Asked whether he had ever bought a $700,000 property on impulse, Mr Joyce said, "No I haven't.

"My wife would be upset if I went shopping without her," he said.

Ms King called on Ms Ley to "front up today and explain" or resign.

"If she cannot do this, she has no choice but to resign, or [Prime Minister] Malcolm Turnbull must move her off his front bench," she said. 

"Sussan Ley's explanation that the purchase 'was not planned nor anticipated' is woefully inadequate and an insult to Australians." 

Labor called on Ms Ley to explain which stakeholders she met while on the Gold Coast, if an official Comcar was used at any point during the purchase of the property and how the spontaneous purchase of the property came about.

"Malcolm Turnbull has an appalling track record of doing the right thing when it comes to his ministers doing the wrong thing," Ms King said.  

"This cannot be another name added to his list of inaction and denial while taxpayers pay the price."

Ms King told reporters in Melbourne on Friday: "I think this doesn't pass the pub test.

She said ministerial standards required diligence and the "non-blurring" of public and private lives, but did not expand on whether the rules on family members accompanying MPs needed to be tightened.

Ms King insisted that Ms Ley should release her diary and details of who she met on the trip. 

"Most people I know don't just suddenly purchase a property; you've got to go see the property, you need to contact a real estate agent to do a viewing, what was her partner doing as part of that, was that planned?" she said.

Former speaker Bronwyn Bishop, who resigned over revelations she charged taxpayers more than $5000 to take a helicopter to a Liberal fundraiser, defended Ms Ley.

"When you're a minister or a parliamentary office holder, as I was, your staff arranges your travel arrangements," Mrs Bishop told Sky News. 

"You're a busy person, you can't check on that, that's what they're employed to do."

With AAP

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