Australia health minister agrees to step down amid probe
Australia’s heath minister has agreed to temporarily stand down pending the findings of an investigation into allegations that she funded personal trips with taxpayer money.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said in a statement on Monday that Minister Sussan Ley had agreed to step down without ministerial pay until the investigation by the prime minister’s department into whether her expense claims met standards is completed.
“I expect the highest standards from my ministers in all aspects of their conduct and especially the expenditure of public money,” Turnbull said.
Cabinet Secretary Arthur Sinodinos will be in charge of Ley’s portfolio responsibilities in the meantime.
Ley first came under fire last week over allegations that she had used taxpayer money for personal trips in recent years, including to the Australian tourist city of Gold Coast, where she bought a luxury apartment in 2015.
If the scandal leads to a reshuffle in Turnbull’s cabinet, it will be the first of its kind since his government was re-elected six months ago.
On Sunday, Ley admitted to making an “error of judgment” in the trip to Gold Coast and offered to repay some of the money that had been spent. She said, however, that she was “making available my records and I’m very confident that they will be within the rules.”
The scandal comes as Turnbull’s government is already under fire over attempts to have overpayments to welfare recipients returned and to cut pensions to the elderly while trying to reign in a national deficit.