Australia's House speaker quits over travel expense scrutiny
SYDNEY: The speaker of Australia's House of Representatives resigned Sunday following weeks of accusations that she used taxpayer money to pay for extravagant and unnecessary travel.
Bronwyn Bishop has faced fierce criticism since it emerged last month that she spent more than 5,000 Australian dollars ($3,650) to charter a helicopter for an 80-kilometre (50-mile) trip to a golf course to attend a fundraiser for the ruling Liberal Party, rather than drive the 90-minute route.
Bishop subsequently apologised for what she called the "ridiculous" expense and repaid the money. But scrutiny over her other travel expenses continued, including claims that she charged taxpayers for travel costs associated with trips to attend weddings; she later said she would repay those expenses as well.
On Sunday, Sydney's Daily Telegraph reported that she used more than AU$260,000 of taxpayers' money over the past five years to be driven around in chauffeured cars, limousines and private-plated vehicles.
The Finance Department is investigating whether she violated any rules.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who announced Bishop's resignation, said there would be a review of lawmaker entitlements in the wake of the scandal.
"It won't just be tinkering with the system," he told reporters. "Plainly, the system that we have is deficient. The public deserves to be absolutely confident taxpayers' money is not being abused."
Bishop said her resignation was effective immediately. She will continue to serve as a lawmaker for the ruling conservative party, representing her local district.
"I have not taken this decision lightly," Bishop said in a statement. "It is because of my love and respect for the institution of parliament and the Australian people that I have resigned as Speaker."
Bishop had served as speaker since 2013.