Politics

Out of control: Expenses claims made by Federal politicians

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Andrew Broad has recently been caught up in an expenses scandal (screenshot via YouTube).

The latest online dump of Federal politicians’ expenses claims by the Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority (IPEA) is, once again, an exposé in extravagance and hypocrisy by our Federal politicians.

In 2014, former Treasurer Joe Hockey, while arguing against supporting drought-affected farmers and the then-struggling SPC Fruit Company, uttered words that have now become infamous. 

He arrogantly announced:

''The age of entitlement is over. The age of personal responsibility has begun.''

It would appear that this message has gone unheard or unheeded by many politicians who continue to claim exorbitant expenses on top of their already substantial salaries.

In the July-September quarter, Deputy Leader of the Nationals, Senator Bridget McKenzie, claimed $19,942.20 for a flight from Rockhampton to Melbourne, Essendon on May 11 2018.  

On May 10 2018, during a Senate sitting week, Senator McKenzie was in Canberra, she did not claim for a flight from Canberra to Rockhampton nor did she claim a "travel allowance" for May 11 2018 (claimed 5 days from the 6-10 May). 

Senator McKenzie’s pecuniary interests do not indicate a donated flight, which suggests her trip to Rockhampton on May 11, 2018, was for personal reasons.

In her expenses claims for the April-June 2018 quarter, Senator McKenzie also claimed $13,955.00 for a charter flight to meet Prince Charles.  A total taxpayer bill of $33,897.20 for two charter flights.

Some other "unscheduled transport" top claims by politicians in the July-September 2018 quarter were:

Stuart Robert, Liberal-National Party MP for Fadden, once again claimed exorbitant home internet costs for the July-September 2018 quarter, a total of $6,095.33.  That’s over $67 per day for his home internet charged to the taxpayer.

Despite paying back $37,975 in October for "excess usage charges", he continues to claim out-of-control expenses for his home internet and IPEA continues to approve them.

 

In the July-September 2018 quarter, Member for New England in NSW, Barnaby Joyce, claimed $6,009.90 for family travel costs, Comcar, Parking and Travel Allowance for himself and his partner, Vikki Campion. 

Here is the cost break down:

  • Airfare for Joyce: $2,440.38
  • Airfare for Campion: $2,440.38
  • Travel Allowance: $806.00
  • Comcar/Parking: $323.14

The total of this expenditure is $6,009.90

These costs were for travel to Katanning, Western Australia, to attend a meeting that he wasn’t invited to. Joyce and Campion, with a baby in tow, gate-crashed the pro-live export meeting.

Joyce then claimed it as "Parliamentary Duties". 

At the time, the backbench NSW MP said he was there "to champion the cause of WA farmers". Joyce did ultimately speak at the event, even though Tony York, head of the WA Farmers Federation, said that there wasn't space for Joyce to fit into the organised schedule. 

When Joyce did command the microphone, he attacked those opposed to the live sheep export trade:

“What we’re up against, is like a religion.Zealotry.  And they’re not going to stop with just the closure of the live export sheep games, that’s not where they stop.  These people haven’t got a partial religion, they’ve got an absolute religion.”

Independent Senator, Fraser Anning, claimed $19,038.23 in the July-September quarter for "family travel expenses" for the July-September 2018 quarter. That’s over $211 per day.

Some of the other top claims for ‘family travel’ for the July-September 2018 quarter:

Office administration costs is often one area of a politician’s expenses that can inexplicably vary wildly from politician to politician and from quarter to quarter. It is not uncommon for these costs to fluctuate by over $100,000 per quarter for many politicians. Nor is it uncommon for a back bencher’s office administration costs to exceed a minister or even prime minister’s expenses.

 

The $100,000 plus spenders for July-September 2018 on "Office Administration Costs", which includes Office Consumables and Services, Printing and Communications, Publications and Telephonic Services, are:

Politicians seem to be unencumbered by expenses thresholds or limits. It would appear that the only function of the IPEA is to catalogue and approve all expenses without proper investigation into whether they are genuine parliamentary duties or not. 

And, if an error is exposed, the politician simply pays it back with no consequence for their attempts to defraud the Commonwealth, as in the case of Stuart Robert and his home internet bills.

The latest example of this was Member for Mallee, Andrew Broad, claiming for flights from Mildura to Melbourne when he took a so-called "personal" trip to Hong Kong to rendezvous with a "sugar baby" he met online.

He is repaying this claim.

As 2018 draws to a close, after a tumultuous yet unproductive year in Federal politics, Australians who are struggling with stagnant wage growth and the rising costs of living are disenchanted with the antics of hypocritical politicians who lecture them about fiscal constraint yet fail to practice it themselves.

There seems to be no rhyme or reason to politician’s expenses claims and the toothless tiger, IPEA, seems unwilling or unable to rein in out-of-control spending by Federal politicians.

You can follow Belinda Jones on Twitter @belindajones68.

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