Anning’s sky-high travel costs revealed
CONTROVERSIAL Queensland Senator Fraser Anning claimed more than $19,000 at the expense of the taxpayer to have his family accompany him on trips made between July and September 2018.
Anning, who is based in Brisbane, claimed the highest family travel costs of any MP in this time frame, according to independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority records.
Western Australian senators Mathias Cormann and Linda Reynolds claimed $17,437 and $15,682 respectively, while Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton claimed $10,669. Labor leader Bill Shorten claimed $10,198 and Scott Morrison claimed just $824.
News Corp asked Mr Anning's office a series of questions in relation to his expenses, which include $31,287 in domestic travel costs in the same quarter - more than $11,000 higher than his crossbench colleagues.
In reply, a spokesperson for the senator said his travel expenses "fall within Parliamentary entitlement requirements".
The outspoken senator spent less in the April-June reporting period, claiming $14,908 in domestic travel costs and $2602 in family travel costs.
The figures raised eyebrows after Anning defended his decision to use taxpayer cash to fly business class to a rally attended by neo-Nazis and far-right extremists - a move slammed by both Scott Morrison and Bill Shorten.
On the back of this it was also revealed it's not the first time the public has had to foot the bill for his appearance at far-right events.
A spokesman for Anning told reporters his travel to these rallies was essential to his constituency work in Queensland.
An online petition calling on Senate President Scott Ryan to refuse Senator Anning's travel claim for last weekend's trip had received over 46,000 signatures as at 2.30pm AEDT on Tuesday.
Senator Ryan is currently on leave.
Today, Senator Anning reiterated his view, saying "Vietnamese shop owners" attended the same event he did.
He maintains he attended the rally as he was concerned about African gang violence and attended in the interest of his constituents.
But both Queensland's Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Queensland's top cop Ian Stewart have rejected claims that African gangs are operating in the northern state.
"No violence at the event I attended and no extremism, just everyday hard working Australians concerned for the safety of their families and the future of this country," he wrote on Facebook to a post that was flooded with hundreds of comments.
Former prime minister Tony Abbott told 2GB yesterday that Senator Anning's decision to attend the St Kilda rally at taxpayer expense was "poor judgment".
"We're all against soft-touch policing, we're all against kid-glove policing, but that doesn't mean that we should be supporting extremists, of the left or the right," he said.
"I don't know what the rules are here … certainly I think it was pretty poor judgment for the Senator to go to Victoria on the taxpayer for something like this."
On July 28 last year Senator Anning joined Canadian far right activist Lauren Southern during a rally in Sydney's Hyde Park which condemned the South African government's treatment of white farmers.
Ms Southern is widely known for her provocative views on multiculturalism, Islam and feminism and her tour of Australia sparked controversy.
At that event, Anning addressed about 50 people before they marched to Circular Quay.
His travel expenses for this trip show he flew back to Queensland on the same day; he does not appear to have been joined by family for this trip.
He charged the taxpayer more than $800 for two nights' accommodation and $1890.54 for return flights.
Mid-trip he also flew from Sydney to Melbourne for a further $1437, according to the independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority report.
It's understood he also charged taxpayers for another trip to Melbourne in early October, where he spoke at a Liberty Alliance free speech rally.
A few weeks before this The Australian reported Senator Anning had addressed a rally organised by a 'Australian patriots' group in Brisbane. It's unknown whether taxpayers were charged for this appearance.
POLITICAL SIDES UNITE OVER RALLY
Both sides of the political spectrum have condemned the independent senator's decision to appear at the Melbourne-based rally on Saturday, where people were seen making Nazi salutes.
The senator said the Nazi salutes were abhorrent as he defended the $2852.80 he spent on flights to get to the rally, which he said was about "Sudanese gangs" being out of hand.
"I went to a rally of decent Australians who are sick and tired of what's happening in the city," he said.
Mr Morrison described Mr Anning was "a repeat offender on these issues" and criticised his association with extreme and offensive views.
Meanwhile Labor wants the government to rule out doing deals with Senator Anning to pass legislation.
Immigration Minister David Coleman said Senator Anning's decision to attend the rally was "morally wrong" while the opposition's Shadow Immigration minister Shayne Neumann said he should have known better and shouldn't have attended the rally.
In August 2018, Senator Anning caused widespread upset during his maiden speech when he was with the Katter Party for his comments which referenced Adolf Hitler's "Final Solution."
"The final solution to the immigration problem of course is a popular vote," he declared.
He also called for a Muslim immigration ban during the same speech saying "while all Muslims are not terrorists, certainly all terrorists these days are Muslims."
In the same speech he declared he was an Australian nationalist who believed in Australians first.
The speech united parliament with then-energy minister Josh Frydenberg (now treasurer) being brought to tears. The Jewish MP crossed the House of Representatives to embrace Labor's Ed Husic, who is Muslim.
Even One Nation leader Pauline Hanson said Mr Anning's speech had crossed the line - the senator was a once-time figure of that party also.
Eventually Bob Katter booted Anning from his party after initially backing his speech as "magnificent" and "solid gold".
STANDS BY APPEARANCES
When faced with criticism this week, Senator Anning brushed it off, including the PM.
"They're all left-wingers and unfortunately the PM hasn't understood the Australian people want an alternative," he told Nine's A Current Affair.
"As far as I'm concerned they're all puppets to the United Nations."
The senator defended his attendance saying the "neo-Nazi stuff" occurred at a separate rally, about 150 metres away from where he was on St Kilda beach.
This is despite him being seen with rally organiser Blair Cottrell, who has previously expressed admiration for Adolf Hitler.
Mr Cottrell and rally co-organiser Neil Erikson are both far-right nationalists who have past convictions for inciting serious contempt against Muslims.
Mr Erikson thanked Anning for his attendance which was also met with counter rallies from anti-racism protesters.
The Business Council of Australia and the Australian Council of Trade Unions have savaged the weekend's racist demonstrations.
Labor deputy leader Tanya Plibersek called on Senator Anning to pay back the cash. "I think the vast majority of Australians would be disgusted to think their taxes are paying for an Australian senator to attend an event which seeks to divide, not unite our country."
Almost half of the Australian population was either born overseas or has at least one parent who was born abroad.
- Additional reporting AFP and AAP