It was June 2012 and an inebriated Barnaby Joyce had risen in the Senate to speak about the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards Amendment Bill when he was “distracted” by the sight of fellow Nationals Senator McKenzie.
“Madam acting deputy president McKenzie, you are looking wonderful tonight,” he said. “You are a flash bit of kit in this chamber, there is no doubt about you.”
When an embarrassed Ms McKenzie tried to interject, Barnaby reassured her “It is non contro. Roll with me on this.”
Mr Joyce said his wife had made no comment on the incident: “She knows me better than that.”
Anyways…back to the ‘flash bit of kit’.
Bridget is taking full advantage of the opportunities afforded to her.
In 2017, despite being a Victorian backbencher, Bridget claimed thousands of dollars to attend a shooting awards ceremony in Sydney.
A spokesman said: “The travel undertaken was consistent with Senator McKenzie’s official duties as Chair of Parliamentary Friends of Shooting. She attended the 2016 Australian Shooting awards as a guest speaker and award presenter.”
Except the rules specifically state that expenses related to parliamentary friends groups are not claimable. For some unknown reason, they were ultimately deemed to have been incurred ‘in accordance with the rules’ and no disciplinary action was taken. Apparently having an interest in something means it is ok to charge the government to indulge it.
But our girl Bridget seems to be afforded more leniency than others.
In 2014, she bought a unit in Melbourne while supposedly on Parliamentary business. All quite kosher apparently. Sussan Ley, who was sacked from the Ministry for doing the same thing, must be wondering if she should invest more in her “kit”.
Being a team player, backbencher McKenzie chose to fly to New England to help Barnaby Joyce with the by-election caused by him having forgotten his father was a Kiwi. She neglected to disclose the gift of the free return flight when she updated the register in November 2017 with her latest gifts – free tickets to the AFL Grand Final, hospitality during the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival and accommodation for dairy awards in Adelaide.
Her expenses were claimed as “electorate business”. One wonders what electorate business a Victorian backbench Senator had in New England – most of us would call campaigning (and celebrating) party business. But it paid off, with Bridget being given the deputy leadership five days after Barnaby’s triumph.
Senator McKenzie holds the distinction of being the politician to claim the most in travel allowances last year, spending $652,697 for travel for her and her staff.
In explanation for the claim of 217 nights’ worth of accommodation allowance, Senator McKenzie’s spokesman said the responsibilities of being Minister for Regional Services, Sport, Local Government and Decentralisation required her to spend most of her time in regional Australia, except she only spent 32 nights in regional areas including two nights in Bendigo, 115 kilometres from her home in Ballarat.
Previously, she charged taxpayers more than $1000 for three trips to Melbourne while she was living in the inner-city suburb of Elwood. Now that she is living in Ballarat, last year she charged us $449 a night for 17 nights to stay in Melbourne, an hour and a half from home. Most of us would call that a commute, particularly when someone else is driving you.
But that’s small fry really. For some undeclared reason – perhaps something about Beef Week(?) – Bridget found herself in Rockhampton in May last year. As she hadn’t claimed for expenses to get there, one can assume she went there for private reasons. Except she then claimed almost $20,000 for a chartered flight back to Melbourne to watch an ice hockey match. She also claimed $14,000 for a charter flight to meet Prince Charles in Cairns at a basketball game.
Bridget loves to turn up for a photo when grants are being handed out to small sporting clubs. Considering the cost of having her in the photo often exceeds the grant, one wonders if it wouldn’t be better left to the local member to hand over the grant, perhaps with several thousand extra saved if Bridget didn’t insist on being there.
In September last year, the senator farewelled the Australian Youth Olympic team before attending the NRL grand final and staying at a hotel. Which might have been ok except she was scheduled to speak at a function farewelling the same junior team the next day. Obviously, their departure was a day late for the footie so saying bye twice was necessary.
Politicians are “personally responsible” for deciding if their use of public resources “achieves value for money”, is “publicly justifiable” and is “ethical”, according to the IPEA guidelines updated in January 2018.
The IPEA also says MPs should be “prepared to publicly justify your use of public resources” and “bear community expectations in mind because your use will be measured against these”.
Which begs the question – ah Bridget, too far?
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