Federal Politics

Kevin Andrews charges taxpayers for Adelaide trip during Tour Down Under

South Australia is an important port of call for any new defence minister. But avid cycling fan Kevin Andrews made sure his first official visit – a six-day odyssey with his wife, Margaret, that cost taxpayers $6000 – coincided perfectly with the Tour Down Under.

Mr Andrews spent $6011 of public money on flights, allowances and cars for the trip that started on January 20, 2015, the same day the tour began. He claimed $2650 in flights, $1945 in travel allowances and more than $1400 on Comcars for the two of them, his latest expense report shows.

Then social services minister Kevin Andrews (front right) leads the Pollie Pedal charity ride out of Moree, NSW, in ...
Then social services minister Kevin Andrews (front right) leads the Pollie Pedal charity ride out of Moree, NSW, in August 2014.  Photo: Dan Peled

Mr Andrews left Adelaide on the final day of the tour, which is billed as Australia's premier international cycling race.

He listed the visit as official business and did have a number of work-related engagements.

Tony Abbott and Kevin Andrews are joined by Carers Australia chief  executive Ara Cresswell after a charity bike ride in ...
Tony Abbott and Kevin Andrews are joined by Carers Australia chief executive Ara Cresswell after a charity bike ride in August 2014. Photo: James Alcock

He visited the Australian Submarine Corporation with the Chief of the Navy and had a handful of meetings with defence industry representatives, and state and federal politicians.

But a spokesperson for Mr Andrews conceded: "He did attend some of the Tour Down Under amongst his official commitments."

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In the only press conference he gave during his trip he said he was riding the tour's Bupa Challenge on January 23.

Mr Andrews returned to Adelaide for this year's event, riding a 142-kilometre charity ride for the Cancer Council. He also had some meetings.

"If he subsequently submits any claim it will only be (a) after seeking advice from the Department of Finance and (b) therefore in accordance with the relevant rules," the spokesperson said.

Mr Andrews' official profile describes him as a "keen cyclist" and he's been a strong supporter of the annual Pollie Pedal charity ride, which is led by former prime minister Tony Abbott.

Malcolm Turnbull dumped Mr Andrews from the defence portfolio when he took over the prime ministership last year, leaving the Victorian MP on the backbench. He is considered a key supporter of Mr Abbott and has been critical of some of Mr Turnbull's national security decisions.

Mr Andrews did not declare any free tickets or hospitality for last year's event on his register of interests. But he was treated to free tickets in 2014, as a guest of mining giant Santos for stage two of the race and of cycling team Orica GreenEDGE for stages five and six.