FOI Request Reveals Senator Amanda Stoker Spent $2600 On Personal Family Travel
Updated: Jul 17, 2022
Documents requested by The Guardian under a Freedom of Information request have revealed Senator Amanda Stoker spent $2600 of taxpayer money for "personal travel" while travelling through North Queensland for four days in December of 2020. Whereas the initial portion of the trip involved legitimate parlimanetary business in Townsville, Cape Cleveland, and Ayr, the remainder involved Ms. Stoker and her family travelling through the Whitsunday region for a family holiday, with the return flights and a hire car paid for at the taxpayer's expense.
The expenses watchdog, the Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority (IPEA) began investigating Ms. Stoker's travel in July of 2021 as part of a routine check of MP's claims for family travel expenses and travel to “desirable locations”.
The rules regarding MP travel expenses state that for an MP to claim the travel expenses for their family, this can only take place if the politician is travelling primarily for work purposes, with their family only joining them to aid their family life. In August of 2021, the IPEA contacted Ms. Stoker regarding the period of travel. Ms. Stoker responded with evidence demonstrating that the first two days of the trip involved parliamentary business but also conceded that the remainder of the travel period was of a personal nature.
The IPEA internal report provided more details regarding the travel:
“The senator confirmed travel from 13 December to 15 December 2020 was personal travel. The senator asked to be invoiced for the cost of the hire car and returning flights.”
The IPEA report stated that Ms. Stoker was invoiced for both the cost of the hire car and return flights, including a 25% penalty. This resulted in a total cost of $2620 which was paid by Ms. Stoker nearly two months later in October of 2021. The IPEA provides MPs with 30 days to return wrongly claimed expenses and then "actively pursues amounts owing to it" following this period.
A spokesman from Ms. Stoker’s office refuted the findings of the IPEA report despite Ms. Stoker paying back the money. The spokesman claimed that describing the travel as a "holiday" was inaccurate as was the claim that she had visited the Whitsundays:
“Following the conclusion of her parliamentary business, Senator Stoker drove to Bowen and then Proserpine airport for her return flight to Brisbane. She did not visit the Whitsundays. The dominant purpose of travel was parliamentary business – Senator Stoker worked on all four days and it is inaccurate to claim this was a holiday. The senator did not claim travel allowance for the 13 and 14 of December as this portion of the trip involved some aspect of personal travel.”
Comments on Upcoming Federal Election
When asked why she believes the Liberal National Party will win the 2022 Australian Election, Ms. Stoker responded:
"We’re going to win because when people get into a polling booth, and they’re faced with the reality of the choice, and that is for a strong economy and people who are prepared to take the dangers of the world and keep people secure and safe and strong in the face of those dangers, there really is only one option that stacks up, and that’s the Coalition.”
Ms. Stoker is a Federal Senator for the Liberal National Party of Queensland. In December of 2020, Ms. Stoker was sworn in as Assistant Minister to the Attorney-General. Her responsibilities were expanded in March of 2021 to also include to also include Assistant Minister for Women and Assistant Minister for Industrial Relations. Before entering Parliament in 2018, Amanda became a solicitor in 2006 after completing a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice from Griffith University and graduating from Sydney University with a combined Bachelor of Laws/Arts degree with first class honours.