Peter Reith has an op-ed in The Drum about the current expenses scandal. It is very much an insiders perspective:
Rules are ambiguous and will often be so, but I always was under the impression you could go anywhere as a minister. Everything you do is part of your work, whether it is a social event, a wedding or not.
Ministers are at work 24/7. The car is as much an office as a means of transport. Why does that need to be limited? To pick and choose what travel can be claimed or not claimed is ridiculous because it would mean that ministers would then have to account for travel and then account for meetings and private discussions. The need for travel would make it harder to have non-public discussions, briefings or otherwise, and yet as a minister there are often many appointments or visits where it is better not to make an issue of public debate.
I don’t doubt that this is a true statement. It is, however, a Type III error – a correct statement in answer to a different question.
No doubt being a minister of the crown is a huge job with great responsibilities. To be sure I’d like to see that huge job and those great responsibilities reduced in scope quite dramatically. The point, however, remains the same – people should be compensated for the job of work that they perform by the salary that they earn. It is not unreasonable that the taxpayer sets a cap on that salary and the easiest and least ambiguous way to do so is to specify an amount in cash and to hand it over.
To be sure, that might not always be practical – especially for those ministers that require a lot of travel, but the point still remains that budget constraints must be hard and not soft. This particular line is simply not acceptable …
MPs should be able to travel anywhere in Australia without specifying who they meet.
… at least, not on the taxpayers dollar.