Choppergate:Bronwyn Bishop resigns as Speaker
The month of July 2015 will go down as one of the unique in Australia’s media history.It saw mainstream print and electronic media houses joining hands in calling for Bronwyn Bishop to resign as Speaker of the House of Representatives. Bronwyn Bishop has been a hot topic on social media since news of the choppergate scandal emerged.Together with social media, they sustained pressure over her travel expenses that has eventually led to her resignation.United like never before, mainstream media headlines declared Speaker Bishop should go in light of her decision to charter a $5000 private helicopter to travel from Melbourne to Geelong for a Liberal fund-raiser.Its now official Browny Bishop is no longer Speaker of the House of Representatives after she quit the prized role after her tax-payer funded travel entitlements caused outrage across Australia.In her statement published online few moments ago, Mrs Bishop said in a statement ”I have today written to the Governor-General and tendered my resignation as Speaker of the House of Representatives effective immediately.””I have not taken this decision lightly, however it is because of my love and respect for the institution of Parliament and the Australian people that I have resigned as Speaker.”Her move follows fresh claims that Ms Bishop spent $6,000 chartering a plane for a 160km trip from Sydney to Nowra last year.Ms Bishop’s office said they would not be commenting on the latest claims.”These matters are now being reviewed by the Department of Finance and it would be inappropriate to continue commentary now this process is underway,” her office said in a statement.
Shadow Finance Minister Tony Burke said Ms Bishop needed to address the new “disturbing” allegations.”These allegations take this entire saga to a new level, to an absolutely new level,” Mr Burke said.”What we’re talking about now is not simply whether or not the rules have been broken, but whether or not there’s been an extra layer of completely inappropriate conduct.” Independent senator Nick Xenophon said Mrs Bishop’s resignation was an opportunity for reform of parliamentary entitlements.”The risk here is that the Opposition will crow about Bronwyn Bishop resigning, when the big picture is that the whole system of parliamentary entitlements must be fundamentally reformed,” Senator Xenophon said in a statement.”This is not about Bishop,it’s about taxpayers being treated as pawns by both sides.”Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he accepted Ms Bishop’s move.He also said there was a problem with how the MP entitlements system operated and former finance secretary David Tune would review the scheme.”We have a situation where spending is arguably inside the rules but plainly outside community expectations,” the PM said.Prime Minister Tony Abbott added that the Government would hold a “root and branch review” of the entitlements system in the wake of the scandal.Mr Abbott said it had been a “very difficult day” for Mrs Bishop, but she had done the right thing by the people of Australia.”Today is not the day to offer an appreciation of Bronwyn Bishop’s long parliamentary career, her long career in public life,” he said.”I have a great deal of personal respect for Bronwyn Bishop and without wanting to underplay the significance of some of the errors of judgement, which she herself has conceded and apologized for, I think she has certainly done the right thing today.”No-one who saw Bronwyn on television the other day could be under any doubt as to her remorse.””We have a situation where spending is arguably inside the rules, but plainly outside of community expectations, and that’s what needs to be dealt with once and for all.”
Mrs Bishop has paid back the money for the chopper ride plus a 25 per cent penalty and last week apologized for the “ridiculous” expense claim.Opposition leader Bill Shorten earlier Sunday morning urged Mr Abbott to act on the expenses saga which started about three weeks ago when it was revealed she hired a helicopter to fly from Melbourne to Geelong.”The scandal surrounding Bronwyn Bishop has to end, it should not go one day longer,” Mr Shorten said.Shorten said Mrs Bishop’s resignation was “overdue and unrepentant” and called on Mr Abbott to release the findings of the Finance Department’s investigation into Mrs Bishop.”Unfortunately Tony Abbott still won’t accept that Bronwyn Bishop has done anything wrong,” he said.”Mr Abbott has blamed the system, but it was Mrs Bishop’s addiction to privilege that was the real culprit.”Independent MP Andrew Wilkie also said Mrs Bishop’s resignation was overdue and urged the Australian Federal Police to investigate her use of entitlements.”Watching this saga unfold was worse than getting your wisdom teeth out,” he said.”The Prime Minister is wrong to suggest that this comes down to the gap between current entitlements and community expectations.”The fact is that the current entitlements rules do not allow a member or senator to go somewhere principally for private reasons and then to certify it as an official trip. To do so is fraud.” Since the Speaker’s resigned few hours ago, Australians both in and out of the country have been posting pictures with #PutYourWalletsOut hashtag.