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Wednesday, 27 August 2014

STOP THE RORTS - » The Australian Independent Media Network

STOP THE RORTS - » The Australian Independent Media Network


In a time when “Team Australia” is being asked to pull together to
fix the “debt and deficit disaster we inherited from Labor”, when we
are told “the age of entitlement is over” and “nothing is free”, is it
any wonder that people are asking who is on the Team because some of us
aren’t doing the hard yards.

In July we heard that Malcolm Turnbull,
Australia’s second-richest parliamentarian, has invested in a ”vulture
fund” based in the tax haven Cayman Islands.  Whilst this is legal, it
seems in conflict with the Coalition’s current campaign against
corporate tax dodging and the offshoring of profits.

We then heard of how we are paying off Joe Hockey’s investment
property in Canberra.  Not only does he claim $270 a night to stay in
his own home, he has also collected rent from a host of other MPs who
have stayed there.

This is not an unusual practice.  As reported in the Telegraph:

“The double dipping of MPs who claim travel allowance to stay in
properties owned by themselves or their wives and in some cases reduce
their tax by negatively gearing property is well-known in Canberra.  In
2007, it was revealed Malcolm Turnbull, then regarded as Australia’s
richest MP, rented a house from his wife Lucy when in Canberra. It was
reported Mr Turnbull paid $10,000 a year to his wife under the
arrangement and claimed another $10 a night when she stayed in

This practice of ‘take whatever you can’ is so entrenched that Tony Abbott
freely admitted yesterday that the reason he had kept Cabinet waiting
for an hour was because he flew to Melbourne the night before for a
party (even though it was a sitting day of Parliament) and to justify
claiming expenses he had to fit in a photo opportunity the next
morning.  Tony’s photo shoots cost this nation millions.

When the Greens called for an independent National Integrity
Commissioner to oversee entitlements and parliamentary corruption both
major parties scurried away.

The Prime Minister
dismissed calls for reform of the entitlements system, saying: ”It
doesn’t matter what the rules are. There is always going to be an
argument at the margins.”

That’s like saying the rorters are always one step in front of the rules.

Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said the Department of Finance
should investigate politicians’ entitlements across the Parliament, in
the wake of the expenses scandals (perhaps before his trip to the snow
was noticed).  But he did not back the Greens proposal.

“I’m not convinced that there is a need for yet another integrity
officer,” he said. “The Auditor General is already able to look at
entitlement claims.”

Either the Auditor General is not doing their job very well or, more likely, they need more staff and some political backing.

With the large number of repayments of “incorrectly” claimed
entitlemnts made in recent times, it seems that Tony Abbott and other
members of the Federal Parliament may have violated Section 135.3 of the
Commonwealth Criminal Code Act (1995) by “obtaining a financial
advantage that they were not entitled to receive.”

Section 135.2 is the criminal code most frequently used by Centrelink
to prosecute welfare recipients at the rate of 10 or more people PER
DAY for wrongly claiming welfare allowances.

Politicians already have most of their bills paid for them – travel,
accommodation, petrol, phone, publications, staff and office expenses –
they also draw a hefty wage with a generous retirement package that they
can access early.  The base pay for Joe Hockey is $366,000 a year and
Tony Abbott gets $507,000 before all the extras are considered.

Before you ask the rest of us to pay half a packet of cigarettes to
go to the doctor, how about you give up buying Havana cigars with money
taken from pensioners.  Before you cut $44 million from the National
Partnership on Homelessness, how about you pay for your own investment
properties.  Before you hike up the cost of petrol, how about you pay
for your own travel and accommodation to go to parties.


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