The assistant treasurer, Stuart Robert, has blamed “connectivity issues” for charging taxpayers more than $2,000 a month for his home internet.
On Friday, Fairfax Media reported that Robert’s expenses for home internet were 20 times higher than that of other federal parliamentarians. Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority records confirm his average monthly spending exceeded $2,000 in the most recent quarter.
In the quarter to the end of June, Robert charged taxpayers $7,222 for a “dedicated data line” at his home on the Gold Coast, including $2,832 in May and $2,705 in April. Since 2017, Robert has charged more than $25,000 for home internet, an average of more than $1,500 a month.
Robert reportedly told Fairfax Media he used “around” 300 gigabytes of data in May and the bill was a result of exceeding his data limit of 50GB and having to pay per gigabyte after that.
He blamed “connectivity issues” for the amount charged to taxpayers but did not say what he used so much data for or which company provides his internet services.
“As ADSL, ISDN and the NBN were all unavailable at the time of installation, a home wireless service was facilitated,” Robert reportedly said. “This was the most stable, viable service available prior to NBN being installed.
“NBN was recently rolled out in the local area, enabling the provision of future services at significantly lower cost.”
Robert has a master’s degree in information technology and was the chief executive of GMT Recruitment, an IT recruiter, before he entered parliament in 2007.
He was dumped from the Coalition ministry by Malcolm Turnbull in 2016 after a scandal over a “private” trip to Beijing when he attended an event to celebrate a deal involving an Australian mining company headed by a Liberal party donor.
Scott Morrison appointed Robert assistant treasurer in his August reshuffle after replacing Turnbull as prime minister.
Labor’s communications spokeswoman, Michelle Rowland, told Guardian Australia it was “telling that a member of parliament with such contempt for taxpayer money was elevated by Scott Morrison to the position of assistant treasurer”.
“Stuart Robert needs to explain why taxpayers are forking out thousands of dollars every month for his internet access, when alternative options are available at a fraction of the cost.”
At a press conference in Queenstown, Tasmania, Morrison said he had asked the special minister of state, Alex Hawke, to look into Robert’s internet bill and report back to him.
Asked what Australians would make of the internet expense, Morrison said they would “want an explanation and that’s why I’ve asked for one”.
During his time as communications minister in 2014, Turnbull once famously argued that people who wanted to connect to the national broadband network should buy a house where it was available.
Guardian Australia has contacted Robert for comment.