Tuesday, 17 January 2017
In March 2016, in the wake of a string of abuse of parliamentary entitlement scandals during the mercifully short Abbott Government term in office, the Turnbull Government was handed An Independent Parliamentary Entitlements System Review (February 2016) by a government appointed, five-member committee.
The review made thirty-six recommendations of which three were reportedly implemented, including recommendations that members of parliament in physically large electorates be allowed a third electorate office at Commonwealth expense, the $10 additional travelling allowance payment for travelling Ministers and office holders accompanied by their spouses be abolished.
Since then the federal government appears to have conveniently forgotten the other thirty-three recommendations – although the fact that a handful of these may not have been implemented might in part be due to decision making processes of the Remuneration Tribunal.
Although cynical voters could take the view that the lack of timely implementation is more likely due to the fact that these recommendations included clearly separating parliamentary entitlements into “remuneration” (salary package) and “work expenses” such as “travel expenses, travel allowances, vehicle allowances and electorate allowances”, as well as MP expenditure reporting to be changed to every 30 days and a clearer definition of “parliamentary business” applied.
Now in light of further alleged rorting of the entitlement system by his ministers, Malcolm Turnbull has announced the government will implement the remaining review recommendations by the end of June 2017.
Given there have been two previous reviews of parliamentary entitlements - in 2009 and 2011 - which have not even made a dent in the sense of personal entitlement which exists within the corridors of the Australian Parliament, I won’t be holding my breath in anticipation.
Especially as the Prime Minister in his press conference on 13 January 2017 was careful not to mention establishing stiff financial penalties for such blatant rorting but did mention creating an independent parliamentary expenses authority which would in effect distance government and parliament from any poor decisions made concerning implementation of the 'new' rules.
The thought of the type of person who is likely to end up on the board of this authority makes one shudder - political cronies of the government in power, MPs & senators who lost their seats or were forced by scandal to resign, former political staffers in need of an income and the worthless scions of big political donors .
The hypocrisy of Coalition Government MPs and senators (who since 2013 have consistently signed off on budget measures and legislative/regulation rule changes which border on thinly disguised class warfare) continuing to line up at the overflowing entitlement trough is quite frankly mind blowing.
While the thought of these same politicians attempting what may possibly end up being a legislative change charade, leaving them still able to use taxpayers as personal cash cows, is more than a little depressing.
* Image found on Twitter