Home » ‘I’m shooketh’: Tourism Australia calls in corruption watchdog over expenses scandal

‘I’m shooketh’: Tourism Australia calls in corruption watchdog over expenses scandal

The National Anti-Corruption Commission has been asked to investigate revelations three Tourism Australia staff charged taxpayers $137,441 for personal travel expenses.

The staff have since been sacked from the agency, which is responsible for promoting Australia’s tourism industry abroad.

Appearing before a Senate committee in Canberra, Tourism Australia chief executive Phillipa Harrison said the spending had been uncovered in October 2023 when the agency’s own staff detected the misuse of funds.

The incident was referred to the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) for further investigation on January 21 this year.

“The three employees undertook personal travel that was booked through Tourism Australia’s corporate travel agent, and was invoiced to Tourism Australia,” she told the committee.

“Tourism Australia demanded that the three individuals repay the full amount of the travel, and that full amount was $137,441, and that was fully repaid to Tourism Australia in December 2023.”

Ms Harrison was reluctant to go in to further detail about the incident, saying Tourism Australia was awaiting a response from the NACC about the situation.

New South Wales Nationals senator Ross Cadell wanted more information about who the sacked staff were, and used his questions in the committee to ask whether the agency’s chief financial officer was among those involved.

“The NACC has advised me that I’m unable to provide the further details on the roles and the people involved, until they have finished their investigations,” Ms Harrison responded.

“To do so may compromise current or potential investigations, and prematurely impact the reputations of individuals in circumstances.

“The legislation enacted by parliament intends to avoid that by requiring that investigations, generally, be conducted in private and that information concerning them is not to be disclosed.”

No details provided on destinations of travel, yet

Ms Harrison did commit to providing Senator Cadell with details on how many trips were booked by the staff, and the destinations for the travel.

“I am shooketh by not being able to ask these questions,” Senator Cadell quipped.

The committee hearing was briefly suspended, to allow senators to discuss the concerns about Tourism Australia staff not answering questions.

Tourism and Trade Minister Don Farrell said Ms Harrison would make a public interest immunity claim, to outline the situation.