October 20, 2013
It's been going on for 3 weeks now.
The revelations that MPs, including Abbott, have used their entitlements to pay their way to weddings, for sporting events, large libraries, book tours and multiple copies of Guinness World Records. They say little about their improper conduct and quietly repay the money. That's that.
The examples of dodgy expense claims is a case of MP's---mostly Coalition ones-- having their snouts in the public trough. The appearance is one of MP's fiddling the books rather than making honest mistakes. It looks systematic.
At the very minimum there needs to be an inquiry into the entitlements system, or some clarification of the current guidelines. The minimum because the spin has been that it's the rules themselves that are to blame, not the politicians who have abused them. We need to go further than this because millions of dollars in expense claims by federal politicians are shielded from public scrutiny, as both major parties passed a law blocking access to information from both houses of parliament in May this year.
It took just 10 minutes for the Coalition and Labor parties to agree to pass legislation that blocked three crucial government departments – the Department of the House, Department of the Senate and Department of Parliamentary Services – from freedom of information (FoI) laws.
Peter Martin points out that the rules are clear:
Ordinary members of Parliament can claim travel for only four purposes - meetings of their parliamentary party, ''electorate business'', ''parliamentary business'', such as representing Parliament or sitting on committees, and ''official business'', defined as properly constituted meetings of government advisory bodies or functions representing a minister or presiding officer. That's it. Anything else - certainly a wedding, a ski trip or a trip interstate to take possession of a rental property - is off limits.
So what we have here with these expense claims is an example of how power corrupts. The MP's can see nothing with cheating as long as they can get away with it.