Unit buy not on taxpayer time: Darren Chester

Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester has moved to clarify Fairfax Media reports this week which stated he “bought a unit” while on a taxpayer-funded trip to Melbourne.

Mr Chester told The Express he purchased the two-bedroom Ivanhoe unit in November 2015 and didn’t claim travel allowance to attend the auction.

“When settlement was finalised, I picked up the key from the real estate agent on 27 January, 2016, as I was already in Melbourne for an official function in my capacity as Assistant Minister [for Defence],” Mr Chester said.

Mr Chester attended a Melbourne Victory soccer match at the invitation of the club chairman as well as a dinner function at the Australian Open between 26 and 27 January after Australia Day functions in the Gippsland electorate.

He lives in Lakes Entrance – a four-hour drive from Melbourne.

Yesterday’s article in The Age followed public scrutiny of Health Minister Sussan Ley for frequent taxpayer-funded trips to the Gold Coast, during which she purchased an $800,000 investment property.

Ms Ley announced this week she would stand aside while an investigation was carried out by the secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Mr Chester said he supported Special Minister of State Kelly O’Dwyer’s comments that the parliamentary expense system “needs to change” and the Department of Finance’s work to implement recommendations from a 2016 review.

He said he supported measures to simplify the system and provide greater clarity around work and travel expenses.

“It would help everyone from MPs and their staff to the public servants who regulate the system.”

“Over the past eight years, I have declared all events on my register of interests as required. That information is available on the public record.”

Mr Chester has met with the independent review panel of David Tune, Harry Jenkins and Brendan Nelson to provide direct input into the recommendations.