If I hear one more person say, “Oh they all do it...” in regard to rorting entitlements I swear I will scream. That is not good enough. These people are on OUR payroll. If you owned a business you would not cop the abuse of expenses that we see from Ms Bishop and other MP’s of all flavours.

The theory in Government – well in media, if watching Sky News this morning is anything to go by – is it seems to be if you apologise nicely enough (like Ms Bishop has ‘finally’ done) and pay the expense back all is good, carry on, nothing to see here...

Seriously? You worked for a ‘business’, used a couple of grand of business funds to go to a friends wedding, or say interstate for the footy grand final and then got caught by your boss after the fact, do you really reckon he would say. “Oh alright, you have paid me back, of course I still trust you to hold the position you do...”?!  Not a hope in hell.

If the amount was large, the cops would be called in. If the amount was smaller, and you weren’t sacked for gross misconduct on the spot (with a terrible reference), best case scenario would be written warning and demotion.  Keep in mind, your boss is looking at this as THEFT, and a breach of trust. 

This Government loves to flog the concept of ‘good business practice’ as to why they prefer to outsource Government services or entirely sell them off to private enterprises. So let’s apply similar to them...

Way back in the day before I was a daggy middle aged ranter out in the regions, I used to actually work in Finance for a very large multi-national. I know, shocking huh ;-)  So let’s discuss how this business dealt with ‘Expenses’:

  • Every Division had a yearly budget for Office Expenses, Travel, Accommodation etc. Relevant to that particular division.
  • All staff except for the Managers Personal Assistant (PA) were employed by Human Resources (HR) for particular roles in that Division.
  • The only position that a Manager could fulfil himself (sorry back in the day was always a ‘he’) was his PA (who of course back in the day was always a ‘she’).
  • Each Manager, depending on division, could only travel on a particular style of transport that was relevant to that position’s needs in that particular division.
  • All expenses from Travel to Entertainment, even updating the Office Furnishings were pre-arranged and in a Budget.
  • Personal business whilst on Company travel was to be pre-authorised by the Chief Financial Officer (CFO), noted and must not exceed that of official business.
  • These budgets were set by Finance who were answerable to the Chief Financial Officer (CFO).

Note the above was not babying Managers or being distrustful, it in fact meant streamlined budgeting, good use of funds and allowed Managers to focus on their core job. Sometimes it was awkward having to issue a "please explain" to a Manager who was earning squillions times more than you, though you had the back up of your own bosses and as every expense was pre-arranged it was pretty rare to have any issues. Sometimes a new Manager would try it on to mark his territory, but as there was 'next to no' wriggle room they never got away with it, in fact, it hurt their chances of going further in the company.

So let’s relate that back to Government if my scenario above was implemented, let’s call the ‘Business Division’ Longman.

  • Longman, would have a yearly Budget of Office Expenses, Travel, Accommodation etc. Relevant to the particular electorate (as obviously different distances from Canberra would change that budget).
  • ALL staff in the office of Longman know the rules for this particular office, they ‘currently’ work for Wyatt Roy as the MP (Manager) but of course are ultimately employed by HR and the entity of 'Government' not Wyatt personally, as MP’s come & go.
  • Wyatt Roy can of course employ his own PA.
  • The position of MP for Longman allows Mr Roy to travel within a set of rules that have been pre-organised as being relevant to Longman.
  • All Travel, making office cushier, entertaining etc. Must be in the budget for Longman and pre-arranged in advance, not after the fact, or enhanced at the managers expense (if allowed)
  • Personal/Party business could NOT accompany official business unless pre-authorised by the head of Finance and would have to be of lesser value/time than that of the Official business*
  • This budget has been set by Finance and changes approved on a yearly basis by the Head of Finance, NOT the Prime Minister of the day, but a Government Employee operating within a set of hard rules.

Obviously some MP’s have extra roles they perform, ie Prime Minister, Speaker, Chair of a Committee etc. and would require extra staff or expenses to fulfil those roles. That is not a problem, there could still be set ‘rules’ & ‘regulations’ per extra role that could be added to the ‘electorate’ staffing/expenses and these would be set in stone, regardless of WHO happened to be in that role at the time.

Changing the rules to my scenario would mean...

  • No more bloated offices full of party staffers or relatives that we are paying for.
  • No more excuses of being unsure of entitlements.
  • No more changing the rules to suit yourselves just because your party happens to be in Government.
  • *This would be my personal favourite... No more popping into a kindy or hospital for 30mins as a bullshit excuse to have us pay for flights and accommodation to party fundraisers, weddings etc.
  • This would also level the playing field for Independent or minor party MP’s to have access to same resources, staffing, entitlements as those of the ruling party so that ALL electorates could be accorded equal respect.

Another bonus of my system would be the dodgy situation we have seen reported about Mr Andrews, yes, getting $75k off the gambling industry via a fundraising entity (Menzies 200) is a potential conflict of interest – that is a rant for another day – but what is worse is the misuse of a staffer who is on OUR payroll as reported in Fairfax today:

Filings with the Australian Electoral Commission filings show that former Andrews staffer Adam Wojtonis was secretary, treasurer and contact point for the Menzies 200 Club from 2010-11 until 2012-13.

Our tax should never be paying for an Employee to organise political fundraisers EVER!

In my scenario, Yes, maybe an MP could get their PA to organise their fundraising stuff, but doubt very much they could get away with it as others in the office would know it is against the rules and pretty sure they would roll on them to protect their own jobs.

Consider this... If the Speakers Office employees, all of them bar one PA, were standard Speakers staff, they handled all administration for the Office of Speaker, year in year out, do you really think from Slipper to Bishop that the likes of the Vineyard tours or Chopper jaunts would have gotten through to Finance to be paid for by us?

In the meantime, since we don’t have a true system of oversight, I think we need to stop copping, “Oh well, I got caught, sorry about that, will pay it back and all is forgiven...” It isn’t!

When elected representatives abuse our trust in them by rorting entitlements they are really doubling down. It is theft and in fact fraud as they have to sign off documentation saying they are on ‘official’ business. It is not hard to consider, “hmm not sure if this is an ok expense or not, best check & get a ruling BEFORE I claim it...”. Quite frankly, if you can’t have the commonsense to do that, you sure as hell don’t have the smarts to be representing an electorate in Government and you deserve to be legally charged for making a fraudulent claim.

Ms Bishop has – finally – apologised for her “error of judgement” this morning on a mates radio show. But this is not good enough.

In what business could you be pinged for misusing your expenses – more than once – and signing a form saying they are legit business, not own up to it until you are caught, then say sorry and all is forgiven?

If a large enough amount was rorted – ie claimed fraudulently - Police would be called in and you would be charged. If smaller amount, you would be sacked or demoted. Let’s stop the leniency for pollies and apply real life ramifications to them, as they are on OUR payroll and I’m not sure of any other businesses in real life where staff on the payroll get a better deal and more leniency than the owners of the actual business?

Over to you Finance Department and Australian Federal Police, it should not matter WHO is currently in Government, RULZ is RULZ.
Fun Fact: Finance Department & the AFP just happen to be on OUR payroll too, so...

Noely Neate
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Noely Neate
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