Assistant Treasurer Stuart Robert has spent more on personalised letterheads and home internet than any other MP.ABC News: Matt Roberts
Liberal politician Stuart Robert spent almost $17,000 of taxpayers' money on "personalised letterhead stationery" during the final weeks of the financial year, more than five times the typical spend for an MP.Key points: MPs spent $15 million on printing and communications in six months at the start of 2018 More than $20,000 was spent on books, much of it in June, and another $793,000 on flags One MP spent more than $20,000 on web services, which included personalised apps
Expense records show the Member for Fadden bought 210,000 items on June 12 — 10 weeks before he was named Assistant Treasurer.
His $16,880 bill was more than any other MP during the first half of 2018.
Mr Robert's purchase was revealed by the independent parliamentary expenses watchdog, which was set up by former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull in response to Bronwyn Bishop's 'Choppergate' scandal in 2014.
At the time, Mr Turnbull said politicians must be accountable for their use of taxpayer dollars, and expenses "should only be spent for the purpose of doing our job and we must be accountable".
The Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority last week released a massive data dump of every expense claimed in the first six months of this year.
The machine-readable data makes it easier and faster to identify and analyse specific claims such as internet bills and stationery.
The revelation of Mr Robert's stationery spending came after the Sydney Morning Herald reported he had been billing taxpayers $90 per day for the internet at his home.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he had already asked the Special Minister of State Alex Hawke to look into Mr Robert's internet bill.
Mr Robert's office did not return requests for comment in relation to his stationery.Printing & communications
Stationery is provided for under the printing and communications entitlement, which totalled about $15 million for all MPs in the first half of the year — almost a quarter of all expenditure.
The annual office budget, from which printing and communications costs can be drawn, is about $110,000 for senators and about double that for House of Representatives MPs.
The exact budget depends on the number of enrolled voters in an electorate.
While many MPs spend at or near the limit, others do not come close.
Liberal MP for McMillan, Russell Broadbent, spent less than $30,000.
South Australian Liberal senator Lucy Gichuhi spent almost as much as Mr Broadbent on web services alone: $20,620. She released her own iPhone and Android apps in August.
Senator Gichuhi declined to comment to the ABC.
MPs' office budgets do not carry forward, meaning MPs lose access to any unspent money in the budget at the end of June.Flags, kids' books and sports coaching
Several MPs spent money on children's books including Liberal MP Chris Crewther and the LNP's Scott Buchholz.
Mr Crewther bought 1,000 copies each of 'Dinosauritis' and 'Smarty Cat: Teeth' on June 19 for $3,000.
"I bought the books to promote early childhood learning in the electorate," Mr Crewther said.
Photo The cover of the children's book Dinosauritis.Supplied
Mr Crewther said he bought the copies below cost and delivered them to each childcare centre and kindergarten in his electorate with a message to parents about the importance of early childhood learning.
He said the timing of the purchase at the end of the financial year was coincidental.
"In the last couple of weeks I've ordered another 2,000 books," he said.
Mr Buchholz was also happy to discuss his purchases, which included books such as Rainbow Magic and T-Rex Terror, many of which were made on June 12.
"I make no apology for using my office budget to support local residents, schools and community groups throughout the year and during special occasions like ANZAC and Remembrance Day with the sponsorship of items like children's books," Mr Buchholz said.
Photo Cover of Hockey Drills book.Supplied
Liberal MP Andrew Laming bought a range of sport books including 'Hockey Drills: Session Ideas and Drills for the Coach'.
He told the ABC he was a passionate lover of hockey with a huge number of hockey players in his electorate
"Keeping up to date with trends and views of hockey is critical to my re-election," Mr Laming said.
The Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority referred the ABC's enquiry to the Department of Finance.
The Department of Finance declined to comment on individual cases but stated books could be bought "for the conduct of parliamentary business".
More than $20,000 was spent on books all up, but that figure was easily exceeded by expenditure on flags — $793,000.
MPs who ordered flags typically spent $4,000.
Nationals MP Mark Coulton spent the most, at $21,528.74.
If you are a data analyst interested in how taxpayer money is spent, download the data and see what you can find.