Politicians must think we came down with the last shower if they imagine we accept the lame excuses of being “within the rules” and undertaking official ministerial business when it comes to these private jaunts that politicians are so fond of.
What possible official ministerial business is being undertaken when foreign minister, Julie Bishop, and her perennially tanned boyfriend attend the elite polo event in Portsea? Give us a break.
The reality is she, along with others, take every opportunity to mix freebies in their private lives with ”official” business so they can sting the taxpayer for the costs of travel to and from these events. If it’s not polo, it’s the football or the racing or New Year Eve’s parties or weddings.
And undertaking personal financial transactions, why not get the taxpayer to fund the trips? A bit of “stakeholder consultation” should do it to justify the taxpayer paying the costs (which would be tax-deductible if undertaken privately).
What really gets my goat is the use of taxpayer monies to fund family holidays – come on down Chris Bowen, Tony Burke, Christopher Pyne, Bill Shorten, Brendan O’Connor and who knows who else?
Seriously? If family members have to be reunited with parliamentarians (a pretty dubious justification), let them travel to Canberra for the joy of it all.
But we should not think this gaming of the system is confined to politicians. Statutory office holders and DFAT staffers (and seconded officers from other departments including Treasury and Defence) are adept at maximizing private financial gains and pleasures while sending the bill to the taxpayer.
It is a ironic in fact that Julie Bishop has ordered a review of the expenses of DFAT staff when overseas. The perks, depending on the level, include:
- Driver, cook and housekeeper are often included in the package;
- Car provided;
- Highly subsidised accommodation;
- Top level health and dental expenses are all covered;
- Regular trips back to Australia for the whole family (business class, of course);
- Boarding school fees depending on the age of children;
- Representation allowance;
- Free communications, including for private needs.
DFAT staff game this system to an inch of its life having teeth capped while overseas, children’s orthodontic needs met, the timing of babies manipulated, school fees subsidised when returning to Canberra and the list goes on.
My view is that no one should be worse off if they are posted overseas. But this stuff is just completely OTT. Who needs a driver? Just take UBER. And cook and housekeeper? Let’s get real. It’s not the nineteenth century.
And certain statutory office holders really make the most on offer. Certain members of the Fair Work Commission, for instance, are known to travel to cities at which major sporting events occur – just incidentally, of course. This has been noticed by certain senior members of FWC but because the members effectively are autonomous and can decide their own work schedules and the places at which work is undertaken, this practice continues unconstrained.
If the public knew half the truth, there would be real revolt. It is only when the truce between the two major parties breaks down that some of this is revealed.
But don’t think the REFORMS will change anything: the parties will sue for peace and this rorting of the public will continue.
Postscript: To show that the government is not serious about this stuff – just how pathetic is Scott Ryan, Special Minister for State, who used to believe in economic freedom – that he couldn’t get around to killing off the remnants of the Gold Pass, which would have taken five minutes to pass the House and Senate. He has been sitting on the Tune/Conde report for over a year and done nothing.