POLL: PM Tony Abbott defends his Ironman expenses claim

PRIME Minister Tony Abbott has been forced to defend a taxpayer-funded sporting trip to Port Macquarie in 2011.

But the Port News can reveal The Nationals booked an event for Saturday November 5 at the then Country Comfort Motel coinciding with his overnight visit to Port Macquarie.

Mr Abbott was in town as a competitor in the Ironman, but it has not been confirmed if he attended the function.

Mr Abbott on Tuesday claimed he would have been involved with "a few other community events" during his visit.

Examination of a parliamentary expenses report shows Mr Abbott, claimed almost $1300 in travel and accommodation costs.

His $941 flights from Brisbane to Port Macquarie via Sydney on November 5 and back to Sydney on November 6, did not leave the Prime Minister with much time for community engagement.

The revelations come just days after Mr Abbott refunded taxpayers for billing them to attend the weddings of former Coalition MPs Peter Slipper and Sophie Mirabella.

On Tuesday, the Prime Minister said he was entitled to use taxpayers money for his Port Macquarie visit.

Mr Abbott said he would have been involved with "a few other community events" and assured he did not go to marginal seats "simply for sporting events".

It is not the first time eyebrows have been raised at Mr Abbott's presence in Port Macquarie.

As the then opposition leader, Mr Abbott attended a community forum at The Westport Club in September 2011.

But some sections of the community were concerned that the event was invitation-only.

That event was primarily organised through the office of the Liberal Senator for NSW, Bill Heffernan, although there was some input from the local Liberal Party in relation to venue and a list of possible attendees.

The forum focussed mainly on the carbon tax and was organised on relatively short notice.

Lyne MP David Gillespie said he believed the online tabling of parliamentary member expenses contributed to the system's transperancy.

"I don't believe there are any plans to change this procedure and as a newly-elected MP, I am certainly aware of my obligations to ensure that I comply with the extensive set of rules that are already in place," Dr Gillespie said.

But the Port Macquarie Ironman, he said, was a community event.

The former chair of the Lyne federal electorate branch of the Liberal Party Justin Levido said the branch was not directly involved in organising the event.

"He could well have had [attended] a function in November," Mr Levido said. "I was away on holidays at that time and it was organised through The Nationals."

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