OFFICIAL expense records show Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce charged taxpayers to spend 50 nights in Canberra when Parliament was not sitting in 2017 – more than any other cabinet minister.
Documents show Mr Joyce claimed $16,690 in travel allowance for out-of-session nights in the nation’s capital between January 1 and September 30, 2017.
That is significantly more than top government figures such as Treasurer Scott Morrison (23 nights), Finance Minister Mathias Cormann (18 night) and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop (four nights).
Mr Joyce was acting Prime Minister for 10 of those 50 nights. Under the rules, Mr Joyce was entitled to claim $276 per night for official business as Deputy Prime Minister, and $565 per night as acting Prime Minister.
Mr Joyce's office blamed the high number of nights in Canberra on the fact regional Australian cities - such as Tamworth and Armidale in Mr Joyce's electorate - do not have permanent commonwealth offices like capital cities.
“It should be expected that the Deputy Prime Minister would use the Canberra office more frequently than those ministers who have capital city bases,” the spokesman said.
After Mr Joyce, the next highest claim was by Nationals' Senator Nigel Scullion, who claimed for 43 nights in Canberra.
Senator Scullion is based in Darwin – a six hour flight from Canberra.
Fairfax Media does not suggest any of the Deputy Prime Minister's claims were outside the rules that govern MPs entitlements.
Mr Joyce also claimed for 62 sitting nights - meaning he spent a total of 112 days in Canberra, out of 272 days, in the period examined.