'This is not the Sussan Ley I thought I knew': Minister's colleagues say her frontbench career is overMatthew Knott
Published: January 11 2017 - 6:14PM
Colleagues of embattled Health Minister Sussan Ley say her position has become "completely untenable" and do not expect her to resume her place in cabinet despite her insistence she will soon return to her ministerial duties.
Ms Ley has been hit by a stream of revelations about her use of taxpayer-funded entitlements including her purchase of an $800,000 investment property on a taxpayer-funded trip to the Gold Coast and her frequent use of expensive charter flights to travel on busy capital city routes.
At a media conference on Monday, Ms Ley, who has been stood down from the ministry pending an investigation by the head of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, said she was confident she would quickly resume her place in cabinet.
But fellow Liberal MPs, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Fairfax Media the overwhelming view within the party was that Ms Ley's ministerial career was over.
"Her future doesn't look bright," a cabinet colleague said.
Another of Ms Ley's parliamentary colleagues said: "I can't see her coming back. This is about judgment."
The MP added that they were extremely surprised by the revelations about Ms Ley, who did not have a reputation for making questionable entitlement claims.
"This is not the Sussan Ley I thought I knew," the MP said.
While well-liked within the party, Ms Ley is not factionally aligned to either of the Liberal Party's moderate or conservative wings, meaning she does not have a strong internal support base. She has described herself as something of a "free spirit" in the party.
Another Liberal MP said: "Her position is completely untenable.
"Most people [in the Coalition] agree she has gone way over the line on so many occasions – it's indefensible.
"She could conceivably do her penance for a year or two as a backbencher and then come back but I don't think she'd want to do that."
The lack of strong public support for Ms Ley from her ministerial colleagues – with the exception of Education Minister Simon Birmingham – has been noted by her colleagues.
The MP said there was no "great degree of goodwill" towards Ms Ley in the party.
"She's seen as a good minister but not a superstar so she's not integral to the government's agenda."
The MP said Ms Ley's use of taxpayer-funded charter flights to travel on commercial routes, as reported by Fairfax Media on Tuesday, appeared to be especially "egregious".
Ms Ley holds a commercial pilot's licence and must fly three flights every 90 days to retain it.
"This behaviour is totally corrosive to the public's trust in politicians and the political system," the MP said.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced on Monday that the secretary of his department, Martin Parkinson, would probe Ms Ley's use of taxpayer-funded entitlements. Ms Ley will have to account for why she was required to spend 37 nights on the Gold Coast, where her partner owns a bin cleaning business, at taxpayers' expense over recent years.
Ms Ley said she was "very confident" of the outcome of that investigation and a separate probe by the Department of Finance.
"I have nothing to hide – I have not broken any of the rules," she said.
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