| 14.12,11. 03:11 PM |
Big Speaker's $7000 phone bill
December 14, 2011
COALITION turncoat Peter Slipper, the man appointed as federal parliament's standard bearer, has racked up a staggering $7254.44 in overseas mobile phone calls in just six months.
While many of his Queensland constituents struggle to pay their monthly phone accounts, the newly elected Speaker dialled up $2733.24 in overseas calls in May alone.
Mr Slipper, whose excessive spending is being examined by the Department of Finance, has cost taxpayers more than $10,000 in foreign calls for the 12 months to June 30.
And with his new status as Speaker allowing him to travel offshore at least five times a year, the costs to the taxpayer are almost certain to go up.
With few restrictions on his phone habits, Mr Slipper spent $1551.83 in January - during which he toured Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand for two weeks.
In February, taxpayers paid a further $1079.63 to cover his overseas calls before a sharp spike in April and May - when he again travelled overseas on a six-week trek to Britain, Morocco, Gibraltar, Spain, Portugal and Germany.
His phone bill reached $1862.17 in April and then $2733.24 in May in a two-month frenzy of phone activity that was more than most federal MPs rack up in an entire year.
In June, his foreign phone bill was a modest $27.57 although the next entitlements register, due out next year, may pick up some of this expenditure. Finance records show Mr Slipper spent over $14,000 on telecommunications - including office phones and fax machines - for the six months, placing him fifth overall and behind Opposition Leader Tony Abbott.
But his overseas phone habit has got tongues wagging in Canberra, particularly as he outspent other MPs whose workloads are much greater than his.
Deputy opposition leader and shadow foreign minister Julie Bishop, for instance, spent a shade over $2000 on overseas mobile calls over the same period.
This is despite her portfolio requiring regular foreign travel - Ms Bishop was visiting Pacific islands yesterday.
"In my capacity as shadow minister for foreign affairs and trade I have a requirement to make international phone calls," she said.
"However, I am always mindful of the cost and only make those calls I consider necessary."
But Mr Slipper - who will next year lead several parliamentary delegations on overseas jaunts - is forced to disclose his phone bills.
The Queensland MP, whose electorate office was last week sprayed with "grub" and "slimeball", last night said his family made "zero" calls using his parliamentary mobile phone.
His wife Inge-Jane Hall travelled with him on his six-week European trek which he said was