Australian minister Sussan Ley stands aside over expenses scandal

Australia’s health minister has temporarily stood aside after using a taxpayer-funded trip to purchase an apartment worth A$795,000 (£473,300; $585,200) on Queensland’s Gold Coast.

Sussan Ley said she made an “error of judgement” in billing taxpayers for three Gold Coast visits since 2014.

PM Malcolm Turnbull said Ms Ley agreed to step aside without ministerial pay pending an investigation.

Entitlements scandals have engulfed Australian politics in recent years.

Ms Ley’s ministerial travel to the Gold Coast will be investigated by both the Department of Finance and the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Ms Ley said she did not expect to be stood down permanently.

“I’m very confident that the investigations will demonstrate that no rules were broken whatsoever,” she told reporters.

“I have nothing to hide – I have not broken any of the rules.”

Mr Turnbull said: “I expect the highest standards from my ministers in all aspects of their conduct, and especially the expenditure of public money.”

Opposition health spokeswoman Catherine King said Ms Ley did not have a credible explanation for charging taxpayers for the trips.

“These revelations make it crystal clear that Malcolm Turnbull must sack Sussan Ley,” Ms King said.

“Either she must walk or Mr Turnbull must push her.”

Ms Ley said the decision to purchase an investment property during a ministerial trip in May 2015 was “neither planned nor anticipated”.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce defended Ms Ley, saying she also had “legitimate business” on the visit.

“Even though I admit it’s a substantial purchase, that is not the reason she went to the Gold Coast,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

“She went to the Gold Coast for work … people are saying she concocted a reason to do a policy announcement on the Gold Coast. I think that is a bit rich.”

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