Australian taxpayers shelled out almost $400,000 over three months to pay for the expenses of six former prime ministers and three surviving wives.

As a reward for their service and to help pay for ongoing work, former leaders can claim for their office rent and administration, domestic flights, chauffeur-driven cars and even phone bills.

A report released by the Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority showed taxpayers shelled out $365,944.5 from January to March 2021 to Malcolm Turnbull, Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, John Howard and Paul Keating.

 Under rules which allow surviving spouses of late leaders to claim expenses, Malcolm Fraser’s wife Tamie claimed a $95.32 phone bill, John Gorton’s wife Nancy claimed a $293.65 phone bill – even though her husband left office 50 years ago in 1971 – while Bob Hawke’s wife Blanche d’Alpulget didn’t claim anything.

Mr Turnbull is the most expensive former leader, claiming $90,711.12 in the three month period. 

Mr Howard’s total bill was the second highest at $77,063.09 and Mr Abbott’s was third at $66,051.25.

Over the year to April 2021, Mr Turnbull claimed $394,703, followed by Mr Howard at $337,234, then Tony Abbott at $199,650.

Julia Gillard claimed the least, charging taxpayers $113,208 over the year.

The biggest expense is the leaders’ current offices, with taxpayers forking out a total of $310,656.26 for the six former prime ministers from January to March.

 Mr Turnbull’s Sydney office bill was the most expensive, costing $85,830.82 to rent.

The 66-year-old, who is said to be worth around $200million, also billed taxpayers $18,000.63 for chauffeured Comcar trips he took in 2018 but didn’t claim at the time, as well as $1,759.27 for leasing a private-plated car.

He also charged taxpayers $2,348 for subscriptions to various news websites including a $174.99 donation to The Guardian, a free left-wing news website.

For trips taken in the three-month period, Mr Howard claimed the highest car bill at $5,622.80, closely followed by Kevin Rudd at $5,410.60 and then Julia Gillard at $3,116.56.

Including Mr Turnbull’s backdated claims, the total bill for car costs for the six former prime ministers came to $39,311.58.

Mr Abbott claimed the biggest phone bill at $1,187.49 while Kevin Rudd declined to claim anything for his calls and texts.

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