Abbott's expense inquiry looks to double down on Bishop Choppergate style rorts

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PM Tony Abbott has set up an inquiry that looks to legitimise publicly funded jaunts to party political fundraisers like Bronwyn Bishop's Choppergate joyride to Geelong. Noely Neate says this must be stopped.

It was left up to her good mate the Prime Minister to give us all the joyous news.

He just relayed the conversation that Ms Bishop phoned him, to let him know, she had resigned the position of Speaker to the Governor-General, then he went on to tell us:

"Bronwyn Bishop has done the right thing by the parliament, by the government and by the people of Australia."

Oh, how we laughed... We always knew she was going to have to resign, the only question was when.

Then we stopped laughing as Prime Minister Abbott continued to tell us that he would be kicking off a review into entitlements led by former head of the Department of Finance, David Tune, and the head of the Remuneration Tribunal, John Conde.


I'm pretty sure what most of us punters wanted was to know the result of the Finance investigation into Ms Bishops "multiple" expense claims? As most who pay attention know, the Chopper jaunt is not her only non ‘official’ business travel at our expense, she has been pinged for multiple outings and most punters are not buying "secret committee business" for any of them. Just because Bishop has resigned her cushy Speaker gig does not mean this is over. We want to know if she ‘lied’ on her expense forms, claiming ‘official’ business when it is not and of course, just like Slipper, we want her charged for all counts of misuse.

Instead all we got from PM Abbott was:

"What has become apparent ... is that the problem is not any particular individual, the problem is the entitlements system more generally."

Well ... umm ... ok, we can see where this is going, Mr Abbott.

After finally dealing with this expenses scandal, he has decided that the “Look over there!” approach will be a review and. that way, when he is fronting pressers, he can stand solemnly and spout some bullshit about how: “Those questions are for Ms Bishop, now MY Government is ensuring that this confusion can not happen in the future with...”

The sad thing is, he will probably get away with it, as he normally does. We will never see the luxury-loving Ms Bishop charged with anything and considering she has been on our payroll since 1987 there is a good chance the Geelong Chopper, Mirabella’s wedding, the 15 hearing trips (we assume were also secret business), the Nowra charter (hell, think there are a few more weddings tossed in the tally as well, I have lost count over the last 3 weeks) could be just the tip of the iceberg for Bishop.

What has become apparent, Mr Abbott, is that some MPs can’t distinguish party and personal business from Government business. Even if the rules are convoluted, Ms Bishop, with all her years of experience, knew – of course she did – that she had to do a 10 minute pop into a hospital, or a kindy or something, to make her bullshit party fundraiser claim legitimate “within the guidelines”. I mean, this is pretty simple stuff.

Anyhow, yes, not acknowledging that Bishop has stuffed up and it is the system's fault has really peeved me, though I was happy to see it peeved others too: Laura Tingle, Michael Gordon and Lenore Taylor were straight out of the blocks last night calling BS on "the system is at fault" excuse and this heartened me to a degree.

Then I went to bed, but I was still seething — see, I’m one of those daggy punters who actually reads what is released by government (yes, I know, I need to get a life).

One line in particular in the ‘Terms of Reference’ for the PM’s An Independent Parliamentary Entitlements System stood out like a German Shepherd's crab apples.

'Acknowledging the role of party business in parliamentary business.'

Seriously!? My reading of including that in the 'Purpose' of the committee is that Mr Abbott is not only going to let Ms Bishop get away with ripping off the taxpayer by allowing her to resign and keep her job, but is, in fact, doubling down on the insult to us by trying to make ‘party business’ a bona fide expense for MP to claim in their entitlements.

Pollies love to use the term “community expectations”, well I can tell Mr Abbott now:

The Community never expects to pay for politicians to attend their own parties business, fundraisers, strategy meetings etc. NEVER EVER!

Considering political parties are not even mentioned in our Constitution, over the years, various rules have been changed by governments of all stripes to to give them an advantage that a sole independent MP does not get. This grates on me enough as MPs are elected to represent their electorates, not be “warriors for their political parties”.

This from 2013 really tickled my fancy and truly displays the importance the Australian Public place on political parties:

(Infographic via QuikStats: 'Australian Political Party Membership')

'There are more people on the waiting list to join the Melbourne Cricket Club than there are rank-and-file members in all Australian political parties put together.'

~ Cathy Alexander, 18/7/2013

I’m not sure how accurate those figures are in the piece I linked above, as it is hard to find real figures but even Peter Brent in The Australian in June 2011 could cite Liberal National membership as 80,000 in 2002. Considering Australia has a population of over 23 million people, it clearly illustrates that, regardless which political party membership figures are used, we punters pretty much do not give much credence to political parties as only a miniscule percentage of the population actually bothers joining them.

Hence, for the PM to think that we punters - who quite patently do not give much of a shit about political parties – will be sweet with him including "party" business as part of MPs' entitlements, then he has another thing coming. By all means, you all swan around the country attending sucking up to the faithful, but do it in your own time and at your parties expense, not at that of the Australian taxpayer!

The PM is correct:

"We do need a system that supports the work and activities of current day politicians, from diverse electorates, and helps them serve their constituencies, parties and the Parliament."

NOT the parties. MPs are on our payroll; if they want to do party business, do it on the party’s dollar, not ours!

You can follow Noely on Twitter @YaThinkN. This article was originally published on Noely Neate's blog 'YaThink?' on 12 July 2015 under the title 'PM is doubling down on Bishop's extravagant slap in the face to Taxpayers'.

Make sure you vote in the poll on that page: 'Should MP's be allowed to claim 'Party Business' in Entitlements'.

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