All MPs are allowed to bring family members on trips to Canberra or around their electorate at taxpayers’ expense, within a cost limit. They are also entitled to three interstate family reunion trips each year.
However, only two other politicians spent more than $30,000 on family reunion travel last year: Mathias Cormann and Melissa Price — both cabinet ministers from the isolated state of Western Australia.
Senator Anning declined to respond to a series of questions about his use of taxpayer funds, including $21,483 for 22 flights last year to places other than his home state or Canberra.
The senator’s spokesman said the «interstate travel falls within parliamentary entitlement requirements and is for the benefit of his Queensland constituents».
Senator Anning has confirmed some of his trips to Melbourne to attend right-wing rallies were paid for by the taxpayer, despite him having no constituents in the state of Victoria.
During such a trip last weekend, Senator Anning was «egged» by a 17-year-old boy protesting his remarks linking the mosque shootings to Muslim immigration. The senator has refused to resile from the comments despite widespread condemnation from both sides of politics.
Senator Anning told reporters he had «of course» charged taxpayers for the Melbourne trip. This does not appear on the current expenses report, which only goes up to December.
The cost of Senator Anning’s staff travel was $247,128 last year — more than double that of senators such as Glenn Sterle or Slade Brockman, who travel from Western Australia.
Senator Anning’s staff travel for between six and nine employees was the most for an MP who did not hold ministerial or shadow ministerial role. Between July and September, he charged taxpayers almost $30,000 a month for his seven staff to travel the country.
Senator Anning’s total entitlement claims were $556,472 in 2018 — more than most other senators, including Pauline Hanson ($553,064), Derryn Hinch ($536,804), and Sarah Hanson-Young ($390,554).
Queensland Liberal senator Ian MacDonald ($608,096) and Senator Brockman ($667,657) both cost taxpayers more in total than Mr Anning did in 2018.
For all categories of expenses, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten claimed more than any other MP last year — $3,182,385. But this included $2,254,569 for between 36 and 40 of his employees to travel.
«The Office of the Leader of the Opposition has more staff than other MPs, so the travel expenses are higher,» a spokeswoman said.
«And unlike the offices of the Prime Minister and government ministers, the office flies commercially and does not use a private VIP jet, the costs of which are not listed on the expenses reports.»
The accounts also reveal Prime Minister Scott Morrison spent $2000 on luxury car travel during his highly-publicised «bus tour» of Queensland in November.
Mr Morrison was criticised after The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age revealed he was actually travelling large sections of the tour aboard the air force VIP jet.
While the total cost of the trip including the plane and staff travel is unknown, the records show Mr Morrison spent nearly $2000 on COMCARs in Brisbane, Rockhampton and Townsville, and charged taxpayers $577 a night for three nights’ accommodation.
Recent records published by the Department of Defence show the VIP jet costs about $4600 an hour to fly.
Nigel Gladstone is The Sydney Morning Herald’s data journalist.
Michael Koziol is a political correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.