Julie Bishop defends AFL grand final spending

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has defended using taxpayers' money to attend the AFL grand final for a fourth year in a row, calling it a "significant international event".

Ms Bishop - who is often criticised for attending sporting events such as football and polo on the public purse - says she travelled to Melbourne for other reasons but was invited to the final by the AFL and her travel was all within parliamentary entitlements.

"The AFL is a significant international event and I support political leaders - the Prime Minister and Bill Shorten and others - attending the AFL grand final to show our support for this game and for the organisation," she told the ABC's Insiders program.

"As Foreign Minister I work very closely with the AFL in our aid program, bringing the AFL sport to the Asia-Pacific. It is part of our aid program in the Pacific island nations. I was invited in my official capacity as a partner of the AFL and I was pleased to attend."

A spokeswoman for Ms Bishop later said: "The reporter is asserting that the Foreign Minister has made travel claims that she has not."

MPs typically submit their entitlement claims - for hotels, cars and travel allowance - in the days or weeks after travelling.

On Saturday morning, North Melbourne chairman Ben Buckley joked about Ms Bishop's travel during the AFL's packed grand final breakfast.

"I read with interest earlier this week that Julie Bishop did not arrange her travel with the purpose of attending an AFL match," he quipped. "Coincidentally at 5:30pm there's an emergency meeting of the Federal Cabinet International Relations Committee in the Yarra Room at the MCG."

Ms Bishop's office has not issued any official engagement alerts since her arrival in Melbourne on Thursday, but photos show her attending the Liberal Party's Dunkley blue ribbon fundraiser and the Liberal Ladies Who Legislate forum.

Her office declined to comment on whether taxpayers had paid for her to travel to Friday's exclusive Liberal gathering at century-old vineyard, the Morning Star Estate, or the Liberal ladies forum at KPMG on Thursday. Using taxpayer funding to travel to party fundraisers is explicitly against parliamentary expense regulations.

Ms Bishop's Sunday morning interview took place in the Insiders studio in Melbourne. Host Barrie Cassidy said the show had asked her to come on, not the other way around.

Last year, Ms Bishop charged taxpayers $3500 to attend the grand final including $1946 on flights from Perth to Melbourne, and $577 on a chauffeur driven car.

The Herald Sun reported that Ms Bishop had spent tens of thousands of dollars visiting cities on the same day her West Coast Eagles played.

On 17 occasions between 2009 and 2013 Ms Bishop was in the same city when the Eagles played away from home, racking up $29,000 in taxpayer funded flights. Ms Bishop is a former board member of the club and now its number one ticket holder.

At the grand final breakfast on Saturday, Mr Buckley also joked the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade had asked the Eagles to play the AFL's exhibition match in China next year.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull gave official speeches at the breakfast. Greens leader Richard Di Natale, Goldstein MP Tim Wilson, NSW Riverina MP Michael McCormack, Sports Minister Greg Hunt and Liberal senator Jane Hume were all spotted at the MCG before kick off.

- with Eryk Bagshaw

This story Julie Bishop defends AFL grand final spending first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.