Joe Hockey blows almost $70k on booze, babysitters
JOE Hockey billed taxpayers almost $70,000 on booze, breakfasts and babysitters in just six months as our ambassador to the United States.
The sacked treasurer, who took up his $360,000-a-year job in Washington in 2016, racked up bills totalling $69,770 from July to December last year and continued billing taxpayers thousands for babysitters to mind his children while he wined and dined VIPs.
The selfie-obsessed Liberal MP-turned-diplomat justified his $3340 babysitting bill in October as "supporting Australian businesses abroad".
He also claimed thousands of dollars for intimate lunches and dinners which helped him "build networks and institutional links".
But the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade says Mr Hockey's expense claims are within the rules and entertaining is "an important tool" to build contacts and influence.
Mr Hockey, who once declared the "age of entitlement is over", also charged laundry, cleaning, taxis and parking costs to the public purse.
Itemised expenditure accounts, obtained under freedom of information laws, list lunches, dinners, afternoon teas and bulk purchases of alcohol.
Among the biggest bills was a $4335 dinner for 44 guests in November last year, a $3165 party for Dennis Richardson, a retiring public servant and former diplomat, and $3072 on flowers.
The public picked up the $2660 tab for bulk alcohol and a $2535 reception for Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop when she visited in September last year.
He also billed the taxpayer for dinners and events while visiting Australia late last year.
Mr Hockey, who supplements his salary with a $90,000 publicly funded pension, lives rent-free in the ambassador's heritage-listed 1940s mansion, "White Oaks", with his self-made millionaire banker wife, Melissa Babbage, and their three children.
As treasurer, Mr Hockey advised Australians struggling to buy their first home to "get a good job that pays good money".
It has been previously revealed the Hockeys hired a $46,000 housekeeper - on the taxpayer - to prepare meals, clean, wash and iron.
The couple once boasted an Australian property portfolio worth more than $10 million, with homes in Sydney's Hunters Hill, Canberra and farmland in northern Queensland, but have sold some of it since Mr Hockey left parliament.
Australian diplomats spend an estimated $5 million wining, dining and entertaining around the world each year.
Despite his lavish lifestyle and his past political faux pas, Mr Hockey has earned praise from both sides of politics for his unorthodox diplomatic approach working with the Trump administration.
He regularly posts pictures on Instagram with US celebrities, politicians and business leaders at some of his functions.
Mr Hockey's work is credited, along with golf legend Greg Norman, for maintaining Australia's close ties with President Donald Trump, which helped us avoid major trade penalties early this year.
A DFAT spokeswoman replied to questions directed to Mr Hockey, saying the expenditure and work-related activities outlined were in line with the department's Finance Management Manual and the Human Resources Manual.
"Ambassador Hockey used his representational funds in accordance with departmental policy to offset childcare costs when he and his spouse were required to support the work of the embassy," the spokeswoman said.
She said his visit to Australia in December was used to meet state premiers and senior business leaders before the Prime Minister's trade mission to the US in February.
"The result was the largest and most significant bipartisan political and business delegation ever to visit the United States," she said.
SOME OF JOE HOCKEY'S EXPENSES
$4335 - Dinner for 44 guests
$3340 - Babysitters
$3165 - Party for Dennis Richardson, retiring public servant and diplomat
$3072 - Flowers
$2660 - On bulk alcohol
$2535 - Reception for Foreign Minister Julie Bishop
$1521 - Laundry, cleaning and parking
*Money converted from US dollars to Australian dollars at current exchange rate.
Source: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade