at the trough .....
from john passant ….
The born to rort party is back in charge and all is right in the land of the long boozy taxpayer funded lunch, dinner, wedding, party, anything.
From the Prime Minister down there are questions about expense claims.
Tony Abbott recently paid back $1094 he had claimed as reimbursement for attending Sophie Mirabella’s wedding in 2006. Mirabella of course was set to be a Cabinet Minister in Abbott’s new government but lost her seat.
Abbott is not alone. Bronwyn Bishop went to the same wedding but it is unclear at the moment whether she claimed any expenses. We shall soon find out.
When shock jock Michael Smith got married, the now Attorney-General George Brandis twerked the night away. He also claimed more than $1700 in expenses, which he recently re-paid.
Barnaby Joyce went to the same wedding. It is not clear if he was twerking with Brandis or not, but like Brandis he also claimed expenses for attending the wedding. He has since repaid over $600 in Comcar costs.
In 2011 Australia’s richest woman, mining magnate Gina Rinehart, flew Coalition members Julie Bishop, Barnaby Joyce and Teresa Gambaro from Perth to India in a private jet to the wedding of the granddaughter of her business partner. All three claimed travel expenses for the return home.
Apart from the question of whether they were entitled to claim these expenses – they will mutter about talking to business people and officials – the fact that Rinehart footed the bill for their travel to a wedding raises real questions in my mind about influence buying. Here was Rinehart parading 2 senior then opposition but now Government figures to potential and actual Indian business associates.
And maybe the favour of a trip to India and the closeness of the relationship influences policy?
What is the Liberals’ position on the Minerals Resource Rent Tax again? And Rinehart’s?
The carbon tax?
It also shows how shallow and superficial the Liberals and Nationals are, letting themselves be put in a position to accept paid favours from Australia’s richest woman.
Rinehart of course was also at Barnaby Joyce’s election night party. She was invited, but one could also draw the conclusion she went to check on how her political investment was going in the election. He won.
In 2009 Tony Abbott claimed travel expenses for parts of a tour around Australia to promote his book Battlelines. He repaid $9400 in 2010.
Between 2009 and 2013 now Attorney General George Brandis – he of wedding dance fame – spent $13000 on taxpayer funded additions to his Library, including Hitch-22, The Marmalade Files, Best Australian Political Cartoons, A Dictionary of Modern English Usage and Roget’s Thesaurus. He says they were all work related.
Peter Slipper, the former Liberal National Party and then independent MP and Speaker, is currently on trial for using about $900 of Cabcharge vouchers to tour wineries near Canberra.
None of the other parliamentarians mentioned have been charged with anything. Apparently weddings are different to wineries.
Now, Federal parliamentarians have this cute little arrangement called the Minchin protocol.
As you can see from the protocol, there is an internal audit into suggestions of misuse. If it is minor – I only took a little bit of money, or the dog ate my expense records – the member is invited to give an explanation. For more serious allegations a high level Departmental Committee considers whether, among other things, to refer the matter to the Australian Federal Police.
I don’t know about you but as a taxpayer I’d ask why aren’t all matters of misuse referred to the AFP to investigate? Setting up an internal Departmental process and investigation to see if a crime has been committed looks to me as if it is removing parliamentarians one step from the criminal law.
What legal authority does the Minchin protocol have? I understand the political authority and the fact that it hides most transgressions from public view, but surely this new transparent government would want us all to know about potential instances of abuse of entitlements. Surely? Of course not, because they are all up to it.
In most cases (apart from Peter Slipper) repaying the questionable sums claimed absolves the parliamentarian from blame and from referral to the AFP.
This hides the reality of rorting – intentional or not – from view. We are paying their way. Shouldn’t we be able to see what they do, what they claim and what justifications they provide for possible abuses?
It did happen in the UK. The documents showed widespread and systematic abuse. All sides were in on it. Here is a Wikipedia link to the long long list.
The suspicion must be that Australian parliamentarians are no different to their Westminster colleagues.
Show us the detail. On the basis of what has come to light so far and mentioned above, (and leaving aside the consistent pattern of misuse over time,) how many more repayments have been made? FoI documents revealed it was close to $1 million over some years, with the Coalition outpacing the ALP by about two to one, with the Coalitions’ repaid claims worth more than $500,000. For the Greens and Katter the figure was a bit over $2000.
Maybe, like public servants, parliamentarians should have to have their travel and other expenses approved before they travel, and a limit set on accommodation and daily living costs. They can then pay for anything above that limit out of their own pocket. After all, just like public servants, surely parliamentarians are servants of the public too? (Writing that made me laugh too …)
Or how about something more radical, something that happens every time workers set up their own democratic institutions? Pay politicians the average wage.
Rorting is part and parcel of the logic of parliamentarianism. They are elected to rule over us, and that includes being rewarded for their political omnipresence. Unlike mere mortals, the normal rules do not apply to them. They are above us.
This is even more so for those parliamentarians with close ties to business, in the past the Coalition but with many Labor members catching up. The logic of business is that all expenses are business related, even if they are guzzling grog, watching footy or force feeding on canapes, or all three.
The logic of parliamentarianism is similar – all expenses are related to politics and so are claimable. L’état, c’est moi. (The state, it’s me.) Or maybe it is Marie Antoinette syndrome – we can eat non-existent cake while they live it up.
And if you are a ruling class politician your mentality will almost invariably be you are born to rule.
Indeed, I wonder how many parliamentarians wining and dining at the two major football events of the last few weeks claimed, or were considering claiming, expenses or used Comcar or Cabcharge. What about past years?
Maybe it is time for another arm of the state, the AFP, to investigate all suspect expense and travel claims over the last decade and release all the details to the public? Maybe, just maybe, they could add a few more to the prosecution list, apart from Peter Slipper.
That won’t happen. Abbott has already said there will be no review of the Minchin Protocol. He knows as well as I do the stench if that happened would reach to the heavens.
The AFP won’t investigate possible misuse of parliamentary expenses independently or systemically. They and the politicians are all part of the ruling class and won’t do anything to undermine the facade of parliamentary respectability.