Coalition frontbenchers George Brandis and Barnaby Joyce have denied any wrongdoing after reports they used taxpayer funds to attend a wedding.
Fairfax Media says the men claimed over $ 3,000 in travel expenses to attend the wedding of radio presenter Michael Smith in 2011.
Senator Brandis has confirmed he claimed nearly $ 1,700 on flights, accommodation and a hire car, but says he attended the wedding primarily for work purposes.
He told Fairfax that he used the wedding as an opportunity to collaborate with Smith over his work covering the Health Services Union scandal involving former MP Craig Thomson.
Senator Brandis says to resolve any uncertainty he will pay the money back.
“It is clear that the relevant criterion is the purpose of the travel, not the nature of the event. However, I accept that there can be uncertainty about the circumstances in which attendance at a private function for work-related purposes is within the entitlement,” he said.
Fairfax newspapers reported that the cost of flights, hire cars and incidental expenses were among travel expenses lodged with the Department of Finance.
Mr Joyce rejected the Fairfax report, saying he may have used a Commonwealth car on the day, but that he did not claim flights or accommodation.
“The only thing I can see in this, and it was two years ago, was the use of a COMCAR on the same day as the wedding,” Mr Joyce said.
“I will now dig back and do what I can to find out about that and if there’s some ambiguity I’ll pay it back, but the idea I claimed thousands of dollars is just wrong.”
Shorten calls for investigation
Federal MP Bill Shorten told ABC’s Insiders program there should be an investigation into the politicians’ use of taxpayer funds.
“It is not normal to say that the reason why you get the taxpayer to support you to go to a wedding is so that you can network with journalists,” he said.
“There may be an explanation. I don’t know all the facts, but should there be an explanation? Yes.”
Meanwhile, Smith defended the actions of the politicians on his website and said he and his wife paid for the politicians’ limousine to the wedding.
He says any expense claims were justified because both men engaged with journalists at the wedding and their attendance at the celebration “did not demur in any way from their paid elected role as prominent federal parliamentarians”.
Smith asked of Fairfax: “Is it your interpretation of the [guidelines] that where an expense is incurred in speaking with local media that cost should be personally borne by the member?”
According to the federal Department of Finance and Deregulation’s entitlements handbook, expenses for official business such as “meetings of a government advisory committee or taskforce” or “functions representing a minister of presiding officer” are allowed for.
Meetings with journalists and other members of the media are not sanctioned under the handbook’s guidelines.