Craig Kelly billed taxpayers to fly to Melbourne anti-lockdown rallies | Australian politicians’ expenses

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Craig Kelly is being investigated for billing taxpayers to fly to anti-vaccine mandate, anti-lockdown rallies in Melbourne, internal records show.

Kelly, the leader of the United Australia party, charged taxpayers for his flights to and from Melbourne for two rallies in November and December last year, which were organised chiefly as protests against Victoria’s pandemic powers and the Victorian premier, Dan Andrews.

The rallies were also used to protest Covid vaccination generally, particularly for children, and vaccine passports.

Kelly was a prominent figure at both rallies. At the first protest, Kelly told the crowd that Australia was being “governed by medical bureaucrats that are part of a mad, insane cult” and said the UAP would “bring Daniel Andrews to his knees” after the next election.

At the second rally, Kelly complained that he was unable to hire a rental car because he “refused to show his Covid-19 vaccine certificate” and said he was “no longer in a great city, I am here in a fascist medical state”.

The Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority (Ipea) is probing whether Kelly, as a “backbench parliamentarian with a suburban Sydney electorate”, was allowed to charge taxpayers for the flights to Melbourne. It is also investigating his use of the government car service Comcar to travel from Melbourne airport on the day of the first rally.

The watchdog began investigating Kelly’s travel after media reports about his speeches in Melbourne.

“Upon investigation it was found that parliamentary business resources were used by Mr Kelly to travel to Melbourne on 13 November 2021 (returning same day) and on 3 December 2021 (returning 5 December 2021),” an initial assessment, released under freedom of information laws, found.

“On the basis of the findings of this preliminary assessment, and in accordance with IPEA’s protocol on dealing with misuse of parliamentary work expenses, it is recommended IPEA proceeds with an assurance review into this matter to determine the dominant purpose of Mr Kelly’s use of travel resources.”

The Guardian understands Ipea’s investigation is ongoing.

Kelly said his travel was clearly parliamentary business. He said he had a private member’s bill before federal parliament on vaccine passports at the time, and was the leader of the UAP, speaking on national issues.

“I was lobbying support for that [private member’s bill] across the nation,” he told the Guardian. “If that’s not parliamentary business, nothing is.”

“If I was any member of parliament, such a large public rally would be parliamentary business that you went to it. The fact that I had a private member’s bill, or a couple of private members’ bills before parliament at that stage, I think makes it a direct [matter of parliamentary business].”

“It wasn’t a conference on Hamilton Island or something like that.”

Kelly said he had kept his costs down by flying economy to Melbourne and returning on the same day.

“Sydney to Melbourne, Melbourne to Brisbane, I always fly economy, because I think that’s what the public would expect of a parliamentary backbencher,” he said.

It is unclear how much Kelly charged taxpayers for the flights and Comcar. Ipea is yet to publicly release data for the last quarter of 2021 and the internal records do not show how much the flights cost.

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