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Australian minister Ley steps aside amid travel expense probe

Health Minister Sussan Ley announced she will step aside while her travel claims are investigated. The controversy has spurred talk of a cabinet reshuffle in Malcolm Turnbull's government.

Sussan Ley, Australia's minister for health, aged care and sport, agreed to temporarily step aside for the investigaton during a press conference on Monday. However, she said at a press conference on Monday that she was very confident that the investigations will demonstrate that no rules were broken whatsoever""

The minister was responding to reports from last week that she used taxpayers' money to help finance her personal trips, including one to the Gold Coast in Queensland where she bought an apartment costing 795,000 Australian dollars ($581,000; 551,693 euros) at auction. 

Ley, who has been a parliamentarian since 2001, maintained on Monday that her decision to buy the apartment was a spur-of-the-moment one made after she had already decided to stay the night in the Gold Coast after attending an event in her political capacity in Brisbane. "I realize that my purchase of the unit changed the character of the occasion to one of a more personal nature, and I should have adjusted my claim accordingly," she said.

Australien Malcolm Turnbull und Sussan Ley (picture-alliance/dpa/L. Coch)

Ley with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull

Ley 'very confident' in investigation

She also addressed other discrepancies regarding past trips, including "two occasions where I claimed for accommodation in the Gold Coast for meetings in Brisbane when in hindsight I should have stayed in Brisbane." Ley said that she will adjust her claims for those trips, as well as for another one in which she flew to Canberra from Coolangatta in June 2015.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who was re-elected six months ago, said Ley had agreed to cooperate with the investigation. "I expect the highest standards from my ministers in all aspects of their conduct, and especially the expenditure of public money," Turnbull said in a statement.

When asked whose decision it was for her to step down, Ley said it had been a mutual one. 

Questions regarding Ley's travel expenses are yet another headache for Turnbull, who's already dealing with low approval ratings. The controversy has increased speculation that the prime minister might reshuffle his cabinet soon.

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