Federal Politics

License article

MP Don Randall told to 'satisfy himself' on whether Cairns travel claim was legitimate

It was always going to be challenging for federal Coalition MP Don Randall to explain how it was in the public interest for him and his wife to fly business class to the opposite side of Australia to take possession of their investment property.

Undermining Mr Randall's claim the taxpayer-funded trip was ''electorate business'' was the inconvenient fact Cairns is more than 3000 kilometres from the MP's WA electorate of Canning.

There was also the detail recorded in Mr Randall's pecuniary interests register, which the MP updated a week after returning from his overnight trip in November 2012: ''My wife and I have taken possession of the house at the Cairns location. We intend to rent the house as an investment.''

But these facts did not deter Mr Randall, at least not initially.

A report of a private telephone conversation reveals that about 24 hours after Fairfax Media broke the story of Mr Randall's travel last October - a story that spurred Prime Minister Tony Abbott to tighten rules on MPs' entitlements - he sought official advice on whether he could justify his Cairns trip as ''electorate business''.

The call report, obtained by Fairfax Media using freedom-of-information laws, provides an insight into the impotence of the government body that presides over politicians' entitlements. It shows that on October 17 the Finance Department advised Mr Randall to ''satisfy himself'' his trip to Cairns constituted ''electorate business''.

Mr Randall decided the travel was not defensible and after intense media scrutiny he refunded taxpayers the $5285 he and his wife spent on the Cairns trip.

But five months on he has still not explained how the trip benefited his constituents.

Mr Randall did resign from the parliamentary committee overseeing MPs' privileges and interests.