Bridget McKenzie is a member of the National Party and has served as a senator for Victoria since 2011. Under the Turnbull and Morrison-Liberal governments, Ms. McKenzie served as Minister for Rural Health and Regional Communications (2017-2018), Minister for Sports (2017-2019), Minister for Regional Services, Decentralisation and Local Government (2018-2019), Minister for Agriculture (2019-2020), Minister for Regionalisation, Regional Communications and Regional Education and Minister for Emergency Management and National Recovery and Resilience (2021-2022).
She also served as Deputy Leader of the National Party from 2017 to 2020. Ms. McKenzie resigned from cabinet as a result of the Sports Rorts scandal in 2020 but was reappointed to cabinet in 2021 following the Nationals' leadership spill. Ms. McKenzie has been criticised for her use of parliamentary travel privileges.
Shooting Awards Night at Taxpayer Expense
In 2017 it was reported that Ms. McKenzie spent more than $2200 dollars to attend the Shooting Australia Awards of Excellence awards night for the Parliamentary Friends of Shooting group in Sydney. The total bill for the trip included $1611.12 for business class flights, $400 for her overnight travel allowance and $268.55 for official cars. Ms. McKenzie claimed the trip as "electorate business" despite holding a seat in Victoria. Ms. McKenzie was Chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Shooting group and it was reported that the awards night was the sole purpose of her travel.
The Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority stated: "Parliamentary Friendship Groups are not considered Parliamentary Committee business, and therefore travelling allowance would not be able to be claimed under a Committee clause."
Private Jet to Attend Ice Hockey Game
In 2018 Ms. McKenzie claimed nearly $20,000 for a chartered flight from Rockhampton to Melbourne to attend an ice hockey game. According to Michael West Media an equivalent commercial flight would have cost only $614. A spokesperson for Ms. McKenzie stated that "a charter flight was chosen because no commercial flights were available to get the minister to Melbourne in time for an urgent meeting of the Australian Sports Commission Board."
Unscheduled Flight to Attend Commonwealth Games Basketball Game and Meet Prince Charles
A month prior Ms. McKenzie claimed nearly $14,000 on an unscheduled flight to attend a basketball game at the 2018 Commonwealth games. Ms. McKenzie's office stated that the flight was taken so that she could "represent then-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull in Cairns as Prince Charles visited Far North Queensland." Prince Charles was seated two seats away from Ms. McKenzie.
In 2019 it was reported that Ms. McKenzie claimed the highest amount in travel allowances of any federal politician for that previous year, a total of nearly $74,000. During that year, Ms. McKenzie spent a total of 217 nights in hotel accommodation. Costs of travel for Ms. McKenzie's staff had totalled nearly $653,000, nearly $13,000 per week.
As of January 2021 it was reported that Ms. McKenzie was in a relationship with News Corp's federal political journalist, Simon Benson. These reports surfaced following social media backlash for the pair being seen in a Bunnings store without wearing masks during a period when masks were mandatory according to Victorian state health rules.
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