My ‘8 cents’ worth on the Entitlements of Members of Parliament.

My ‘8 cents’ worth on the Entitlements of Members of Parliament.

This stuff has been going on for some time now and it looks to me as if the issues it brings up are very interesting indeed. And I might add, not covered particularly well in the Press.

The “not covered very well in the Press theme” has been a refrain of those of us frustrated with the reportage of Political events over the last three years.

The Main Stream Media, AKA the Murdoch and Fairfax press seem to have gone to sleep at the wheel. Sure they still produce copy, but it is copy of the most partisan – filled with sloganeering and barracking for whatever beats up the Labor Party.

Gone are the days when you could read an interesting balanced story about the conservative side of politics or even one about the left of politics.

Why are the left always referred to as ‘Socialist?’  We don’t refer to the conservatives as ‘Fascist.’

Why is it so right to want to be greedy and to have more money than you could possibly spend, when millions of people in the world are living in poverty?

It’s cool to be rich and pretty naff to want to share the wealth around the country and the world.

It’s no wonder then that the MSM comes out and obscures the real issues of the MP’s entitlements.

When Peter Slipper took three cab trips to Murrumbateman to go to the wineries, he is charged with dishonestly causing a risk of loss to the Commonwealth.

The shock horror of the man doing that is breathtaking. But that is what newspapers do. The difference between those three alleged offences and Tony Abbott and his attendance at Slippers wedding, which was quietly paid back is really the story.

Peter Slipper was one of their own (The Liberal Party). He was under the pump because he agreed to be Speaker of the House of Representatives and had to resign from the Liberal party. Then it was all out war against Peter Slipper.

Because I had been following the Ashby Slipper thing and researching and writing about it, I also followed up the expenses claim. I am loath to write about it because it is before a court and therefore a dangerous area to go to.

I will say three things though:

1/ Examine the charge and see if in fact Slipper was dishonest and the proof

required to find that and

2/ what was his actual entitlement to use cab charges?

3/ and given 2/ above, has he been partially charged with something he was entitled

to?

Having been a Police Constable 35 years ago, I still tend to use the thinking one has when deciding whether or not someone is guilty of a misdemeanour. I go back to the rules.

So when people like Paul Sheehan from the Fairfax press wrote an article about Peter Slipper and his disgusting texts, I actually went and had a look at the circumstances and spent some time (a lot actually) reading the evidence and comparing it with the assertions in the article.

Here are a few instances of checking facts against claimed statements in the press.

A/ Nicola Roxon covering up information in the Ashby Slipper matter.

I wrote the following article which was published in Independent Australia.

http://www.independentaustralia.net/2012/politics/the-alleged-peter-slipper-cover-up/

The Coalition were accusing Nicola Roxon, the Attorney General of a cover up of the dozens of  rude and crude text messages which Peter Slipper sent to James Ashby.

The examination of the facts showed.

1/ the texts in question were private between Slipper and Ashby and made whilst   Ashby was NOT an employee of Slipper or the commonwealth and

2/ they were not made during the alleged sexual harassment period specified in the original submission from Ashby to the Federal Court.

3/ Quotations used in that article by Senator Eric Abets and Senator George Brandies (the now Attorney General) were wrong. George Brandies is quoted in the article as saying

”These texts, on any view, contain dozens of instances of predatory sexual conduct.”

In fact they do not contain “dozens of instances of predatory sexual conduct.”  I went through them for the period that the sexual harassment complaint specifies (January to March 2012) and I found one offensive remark, but Ashby didn’t appear to be offended by it.

Senator Eric Abets is quoted in the article as saying the following.

”The government was willing to spend three quarters of a million dollars of taxpayers’ money to try to cover this up. I’ve never seen the first law officer of the land behave in such a partisan way. She has a lot to answer for and a lot to explain.”
If indeed he did say that, then he ought to hand back his law degree, because the language Slipper used referring to female genitalia as looking like mussels,

1/ was not germane to the case before the Federal court as it was said (written) between private individuals and

2/ was not germane because it occurred outside the complaint period in the original application to the federal court.

So Nicola Roxon covered up nothing.

One wonders at these two men and their grasp of facts and their legal application of those facts.

B/ The claim by Tony Abbott that the Williamstown dockyard was in difficulty because the Labor Government had taken $21 Billion out of Defence:

Once again a figure was stated at a press conference and rather than just accept it, I actually wrote to the Department of Defence and to the firm which owns the Williamstown Dockyard and asked them two simple questions:

1/ to the owners of the dockyard: Are you in trouble as Tony Abbott says?

2/ to media ops at the Department of Defence: Has the Labor Government taken $21 Billion out of defence?

The answer to both Questions was NO.

My original article, published in Independent Australia can be read here.

http://www.independentaustralia.net/2013/politics/tony-abbotts-landing-helicopter-crock/

Independent Australia was the only news outlet savvy enough to print the truth. They do have a penchant for doing that though.

C/ The Entitlements Business and Federal MP’s.

My first comment about this story (or stories) is that this issue proves the fact that there is no 24 hour media cycle.

I was asked to start examining expenses several months ago, when the Slipper business came up, but the Federal Election intervened and I was busy helping the Local Federal candidate to get elected, so didn’t write anything about it.

However the Social Media and Independent Australia were on the ball before July of this year with the following article.

http://www.independentaustralia.net/2013/politics/tony-abbotts-dodgy-pollie-pedal-expense-claims/

which referenced another article published in IA at the beginning of the year.

http://www.independentaustralia.net/2013/politics/if-slipper-is-guilty-then-what-about-abbott/

So the story has been around for a long, long time.

Then this month we read about Julie Bishop and Senator Barnaby Joyce flying to India courtesy of Gina Rinehart and claiming off the public purse.

Joyce ended up in Kuala Lumpur, where he met with two people from Malaysian Government departments in an afternoon. At locations which are 38 kms apart (one at 12noon and the second at 3pm).

That night he flew out at 10pm.

So he spent a maximum of 7 hours (but probably a lot less) to charge the public purse for his return from the wedding in India. All of this is detailed in the 6 page document he is obliged to write as part of his study tour obligations.

An exercise in cynicism? Yes, I think so. Is he entitled to the reimbursement of his expenses for this trip? yes probably, by the rules, but morally? not in my opinion?

Then we hear about Tony Abbott and all of his expense claims and the furore as to whether he is entitled to them.

Lets get to the place none of the journalists have been and that is the document which governs entitlements for all MP’s.

Here is the link to the latest determination, which cover’s some of Abbott’s claims. Other claims would have to be examined against older determinations.

http://www.google.com.au/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CCwQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fremtribunal.gov.au%2Fmedia%2Fdocuments%2F2012%2F2012-determinations%2F2012-19*-determination-members-of-parliament-travelling-allowance%2F2012-19-Determination.pdf&ei=RjdXUrTDOMSbiQf8moHwAQ&usg=AFQjCNH7o59ko3w0Dcc2NX8oWMohrbUuoA&bvm=bv.53899372,d.aGc&cad=rja

The relevant clause in relation to Tony Abbott and his claims is para 3.8

Ministers of State (other than the Prime Minister) and Office Holders

 

3.8 Travelling allowance shall be payable to a Minister (other than the Prime Minister)

or an office holder for each overnight stay in a place other than his or her home

base when that stay is occasioned primarily by:

(a)sittings of the House of Parliament or direct travel to or from such sittings; or

(b) official business as a Minister or as an office holder; or

(c) meetings of, or the formal business of, parliamentary committees of which he

or she is a member or direct travel to or from such meetings; or

(d) meetings in Canberra of his or her parliamentary political party, of its

executive or of its committees (see clause 1.5.2) or direct travel to or from

such meetings; or

(e) meetings of his or her parliamentary political party executive (see clause

1.5.2) outside Canberra or direct travel to pr from such meetings; or

(f) meetings, other than in Canberra, of a parliamentary political party, or of its

executive, or of its committees, and attendance at the national and state

conferences of a political party, of which he or she is a member (see clause

1.5.2), and meetings outside the electorate on electorate business up to a

maximum of ten overnight stays per annum in total, and direct travel to or

from such meetings or conferences.

Lets go through the thing like a lawyer should in relation to the Pollie Pedal or the Ironman stuff.

The first thing to do is see if Abbott is an office holder? Yep, he was the Leader of the Opposition.

So lets see if he was in other than his own home? Yes, he was when he claimed.

Now we have to determine if that stay was ‘occasioned primarily by’

(a)   sittings of the House of Parliament or direct travel to or from such sittings; or

the answer to this clause is clearly NO.

(b) official business as a Minister or as an office holder; or

This is an interesting one. The main part of the clause states office holders. Tony Abbott is the holder of the office of Leader of the Opposition. What is the official business of the office holder of the Leader of the Opposition?

Well the reasonable man would expect it to be the prosecution of opposition policy. Against those policies which are not bi-partisan between parties.

So is Abbott’s primary purpose to prosecute his policy initiatives on these Sporting events? The answer to that surely would be the amount of time he spends actually doing the sport and the amount of time he spends espousing his policies.

So what do I think?

Well the primary purpose of an office holder of the Leader of the Opposition Office can be done in much more elegant and cheaper and arguably more successful ways than seeing him ride a bicycle along a road whilst not saying a word.

So the primary purpose is not as an office holder at all. It’s as a sporting event.  So in my opinion he should not be allowed to claim for the event and is not and never has been entitled to claim.

(c) meetings of, or the formal business of, parliamentary committees of which he

or she is a member or direct travel to or from such meetings; or

This clause does not cover Sporting events

(d) meetings in Canberra of his or her parliamentary political party, of its

executive or of its committees (see clause 1.5.2) or direct travel to or from

such meetings; or

This clause does not cover Sporting events

(e) meetings of his or her parliamentary political party executive (see clause

1.5.2) outside Canberra or direct travel to or from such meetings; or

This clause does not cover Sporting events

(f) meetings, other than in Canberra, of a parliamentary political party, or of its

executive, or of its committees, and attendance at the National and State

conferences of a political party, of which he or she is a member (see clause

1.5.2), and meetings outside the electorate on electorate business up to a

maximum of ten overnight stays per annum in total, and direct travel to or

from such meetings or conferences.

This clause does not cover Sporting events

Conclusion:

Certainly 5 of the above clauses do not support Tony Abbott claiming travel allowance.

And to be fair, his expense claims actually say “Official business Office holder” so the only clause which might cover Abbott is 3.8 (b). The argument is then whether the PRIMARY purpose of the claim is OFFICIAL BUSINESS AS AN OFFICE HOLDER.

Riding a bicycle for hours on end from one place to another with short stops in between where he may give a short press statement shows that the PRIMARY purpose of the activity is for sport and not his official business as an office holder.

If he held the office of the president of the Cycling Federation of Australia and they had 3.8 (b) in their rules then he would be entitled to claim, but he is a politician and not a cyclist.

Using this logic, ask yourself if Barnaby Joyce’s primary purpose in his travel to Malaysia (about 24 hours) was as a politician and office holder or was it just a means to an end getting paid for the trip back from the wedding in India.

Ask Philip Ruddock the same question. Did you attend the wedding as a guest or as a politician, what office holder obligations did you discharge at that wedding and if you did discharge any were they your primary purpose?

Ask Tony Abbott the question about attending a wedding of his own side. Did he go for the primary purpose of his office or as a guest at the wedding? The same with George Brandis –what office holder duties did you primarily go to an event for?

It looks very much to me like we aren’t being well served by our political appointees and we are being particularly badly served by the self appointed press scrutineers.

To me the issue is clear cut. If you follow the logic of the rules the primary purpose of an office holder who is a politician, is politics, not cycling.

The politicians are claiming money they are not entitled to and the press are not reporting it.

Bloody poor form all around old boy!

Advertisements

8 thoughts on “My ‘8 cents’ worth on the Entitlements of Members of Parliament.

  1. Here, Here, Vince. The AFP has a prima Facie case against Abbott and Co. We should demand an investigation into this corrupt practice. The next target should be the CPG, Time for a change and it is time more independent journalists got a gig. We need protestors outside parliament house, setup a tent city or something like that until the AFP investigate the coalition and the CPG has a good old clean out.

  2. Agree with you wholeheartedly Vince. Just goes to show how complicit the MSM is with this scam by participating in his sham press conferences at each stop & event he undertakes.

    They followed him around, like faithful puppies, reporting his every word as LOTO. Their reward? To be treated the same as we are now being treated. Like mushrooms.

  3. So how can Abbott justify flying private charter, $8800, to Tamworth Music Festival? Although he might have shouted the local councilors lunch to have spent $547 in the same day with no overnight stop. Perhaps he may have pushed his “policies” then? Extraordinary waste of taxpayers money which he promised to be frugal with in campaign speech.

  4. Your argument is correct in that Abbott’s expenditures do not fit any of the legislative requirements for reimbursement. However, I am of such a cynical turn of mind as to believe that to assume that the AFP will do anything about this is an exhibition of naivety of the highest order. Quite frankly I believe, by their lack of action on this matter and with the Craig Thomson affair and Haneef etc. etc. that they are basically corrupt. I have absolutely no faith in the AFP (and I live in the ACT which makes it doubly interesting) as they have demonstrated by their leadership over decades that the political imperative is more important to them than the legal. And that in my opinion is corrupt. They are not fulfilling their sworn duty. In other words their attitude seems to be that they expect benefits to be forthcoming to them by not following the legal requirements of their organisation due to political considerations, a sure definition of corruption. We are poorly served by them.

  5. Well done Vince. A great piece based on reason and logic. Something tells me this will not be the first time such arguments will be required from ethical journalists and opinion writers/editors for truer analysis of the acts of this Abbott gov’t.

    • Thanks Paul and all others who have made comment. I aim to keep this Government honest by good research and argument. A complete opposite to what they did whilst in opposition. They didn’t win on Policy but on perception and by Labor squabbling amongst themselves. Their first pref votes were less than 2% and they won on the backs of Palmer and his prefs. Bringing them up to a swing to them of 3.6%.

      I aim to be their logical pain in the neck. Polite but scathing of any misdemeanors and lies they might (will) tell. IMHO the media are severely compromised in their impartiality and also need the logical pain to assault them (figuratively speaking) too.

      Whilst I am a natural left leaning person, I will not indulge in falsehoods. I also vote for a set of values so will not be wasting my time speculating on people in leadership positions.

      With all of the above in mind and the weakness of the press in telling a proper narrative, I believe it is up to the general public on social media to spread the properly sourced and documented reality of Australian politics. Not the oft repeated media releases of the LNP machine.

  6. Pingback: How Vague are the the Entitlements of Federal MP’s? Is the System broken? | vinceogrady

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s