Yes, we all remember Joe’s pronouncement about the “age of entitlement” being over. But like so many things that the Coalition tell us, you need to listen very carefully or you may miss the subtlety. He was, of course, talking about people, not politicians.
Now some of you will be pointing out that politicians are people too, and, of course, that’s true. But they’re a special sort of person. They’re the sort of person who finds coincidences everywhere. Like a few years ago, when Tony Abbott went to Melbourne on official business, and he just happened to have Liberal Party business on the same trip. Things like that were happening to him all the time. But, it seems, that’s just part of the special magic that seems to follow politicians around.
And they’re always working, and logically, because they’re always working, anywhere they go, they should be entitled to claim a travel allowance. As Sussan Ley pointed out, she’d done nothing wrong and she was only resigning because she thought it was the right thing. And Mr Turnbull agreed telling everyone that she’d done the right thing by resigning when she’d never done the wrong thing because sometimes it’s the right thing to stand aside to stop all those nasty people attacking you about all those trips on government business to the Gold Coast where – by a simple twist of fate – your partner has a business.
No, if one has done the wrong thing, one should resign. Not only that, even if one hasn’t done the wrong thing, one should resign because sometimes that’s the right thing, because, if you don’t, you’ll have to explain why you suddenly and impulsively directed the Commcar to an auction where you weren’t planning to buy a property, as well as why you seem to have so much electoral business in the Gold Coast, whatever ministry you’re in charge of.
No, nobody’s done anything wrong. In fact, in another amazing coincidence, Mr Turnbull has just announced that he’ll be doing something about all these travel claims from politicians just like he promised to do when he got the report from the socialists who thought it unreasonable for politicians to take helicopters in order that their arrival was given the sort of grand entrance that their position deserved. He’s also promised to actually keep his promise this time.
But, this travel allowance business is not simple. As Steve Ciobo, Minister For Trade, pointed out, it’s only reasonable for politicians to claim travel allowances for sporting events because, well, he didn’t get free tickets because he’s Steve Ciobo, he got free tickets because he’s a minister and what’s the point of getting free tickets if you end up out of pocket by having to pay your own travel costs. To be fair, Mr Ciobo did make the point that while at events like the AFL Grand Final, politicians are actually working. To me, that’s the shame. Tickets being wasted on people who don’t have time to watch, when so many people would love to be there merely to see the game!
Pauline Hanson, meanwhile, grew rather testy at a reporter who asked her about whether all her travelling around Queensland campaigning was an appropriate use of travel allowance. Pauline pointed out that she wasn’t campaigning, she was on electoral business because she’s a senator and the whole of Queensland is her electorate. It just happened to coincide with opportunities to introduce One Nation Candidates for the coming state election. Like I said, coincidences follow politicians in a magical way.
(Speaking of One Nation, did anyone else notice that the candidate with an Asian background, Shan Ju Lin, was disendorsed for making homophobic statements, but there was no problem with another One Nation candidate, Tracey Bell-Henselin, writing the LGBTI community was out to “destroy families”, as well as reminding people about the Clinton’s pizza parlour. The One Nation candidate who suggested that the photo of the dead Syrian child was staged and that Martin Bryant was innocent has offered his resignation, but it hasn’t been accepted yet. Given Pauline was disendorsed for her remarks in 1996 when standing for the Liberal Party, it’s good to see that she has so many candidates prepared to attempt to follow her example.)
So, from what I’ve learned this week, it seems that Peter Slipper’s mistake was to try to pay the money back. If he’d just said that he was travelling on electoral business and that he decided to visit several wineries “on impulse” then it wouldn’t have been the wrong thing. And, if Craig Thomson had merely announced that Health Union members expect their officials to spend lots and lots on the credit card, well, he would have had an ally in Ciobo.
But I suspect that Liberal politicians might see that differently.