Malcolm Turnbull has scrapped a notorious parliamentary perk that gives retired politicians free business-class travel on the taxpayer.
A bill to abolish the controversial Life Gold Pass will be introduced into federal Parliament and the perk will be scrapped immediately after it passes.
Legislation to set up a new Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority (IPEA) promised by Mr Turnbull in the wake of the growing expenses scandal will also be introduced.
And it's about time...
Just a few weeks ago, Health Minister (now ex-Health Minister), Sussan Ley was forced to resign amid mass public fury over whether or not she was milking the system when it came to travel expenses.
She was investigated over her use of taxpayer-funded trips after it transpired she’d been travelling to the Gold Coast at the taxpayer’s expense, including two jaunts for New Year’s Eve.
People were peeved, to say the least. We mean, it’s hard enough for most of us to claim the cost of a taxi, right?!
And, btw, MPs receive a (world-leading) base salary of $195,130. So charging the taxpayer for some of the following items is annoying. Very annoying.
After you read this list of bizarre expense claims from the past couple of years, you might be inclined to agree…
We’ll start with this one for the sheer randomness of the headline alone. Taxpayers forked out $330,000 for a border protection media briefing room that apparently wasn’t even being used. The doorknob in said room cost $800(!!!). Presumably it was made of solid gold and hopes and dreams.
Ahh, good old ‘Choppergate’… Former Speaker Bronwyn Bishop was Public Enemy No 1 after that fateful flight. She did apologise and reimburse in the end. We almost respected her for living like an actual queen.
This was a particularly bitter pill to swallow as under MPs entitlements, it was totally legit, but it was also coming from the guy who announced: “The age of entitlement is over, and the age of personal responsibility has begun” and “I say to you, emphatically, everyone in Australia must do the heavy lifting now”.
The former Treasurer claimed travel allowance totalling $184,000 to stay at his wife’s home during parliamentary sittings in Canberra since 1998. Under travel allowance rules, he was allowed to claim $271-a-night when staying in Canberra, regardless of whether that be at a friend’s house or hotel.
So we guess this is what he meant by “get a good job that pays good money”.
Yeah, remember that time Victorian MP Steve Herbert was forced to resign as a minister and repay costs for using his ministerial car and driver to chauffeur his dogs between his countryside properties? It happened last year. Seriously.
As in, paperclips and biros?! The Minister for Social Service must have a bloody field day at kikki.K!
Warren Snowdon is another stationery fan, "claiming 42,000 pieces coming in at $3200 in July last year," according to news.com.au.
The Labor MP claimed he needed to meet the promoter of the concert so it was considered official business.
The Daily Telegraph also revealed when Burke was Environment Minister in 2012, he used taxpayers money to buy his family airfares to Uluru. Business Class.
Most recently Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has been forced to defend $2716 in costs for a trip to an exclusive Melbourne polo match, saying she “was invited and attended in her official capacity as Minister for Foreign Affairs and deputy leader of the Liberal Party”. A Department of Finance report shows Ms Bishop spent $2,177 on flights to Melbourne, $416 on a car and claimed $123 for travel.
It's not the first time her public spending has come under fire. Bishop's three-day visit to Western Australia in 2014 cost taxpayers $145,200. She took 70 others on the trip which ended up costing more than $2000 per head.
And in 'you couldn't make this stuff up' news, Attorney-General George Brandis expensed a series of books about his former boss Tony Abbott’s downfall. Brandis spent public money on The Short and Excruciatingly Embarrassing Reign of Captain Abbott, The Road to Ruin: How Tony Abbott and Peta Credlin Destroyed Their Own Government and Credlin & Co: How the Abbott Government Destroyed Itself.
Incredibly, Senator James McGrath purchased a book titled How to Be a Minister: A 21st-Century Guide for $40. And Senator Barry O'Sullivan claimed four pro-life books.
There are many, many more seemingly farcical expenses like these. And should you care to delve into recent findings, they’re all laid out in the Parliamentarians’ Expenditure paid by the Department of Finance report.
Let's hope Turnbull's new Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority will work. Time will tell...