It wouldn’t be Australia Day without a story about Andrew Laming, the federal member for the seat of Bowman, located in the eastern suburbs of Brisbane, who spends the day crashing parties with a tray of lamingtons and skolling beers whilst doing a handstand in an effort to impress and engage with young people.
Yup, our Andrew is a crazy kinda guy, but he has worked out very well how to have a good time at others’ expense.
On June 30 last year, he and his family set off on an eight day … ummmm … work trip to the Northern Territory and Western Australia. The justification given was that Mr Laming wanted to visit Kununurra for NAIDOC Week, to meet indigenous leaders and health, education and social service providers.
One would be justified in asking why he didn’t want to spend it with indigenous people in his electorate, or even his state. Surely there are communities in Queensland who would have been eagre to speak to an MP about their concerns.
There is also the rather telling fact that Mr Laming does not appear to have claimed any travel allowance for accommodation or meals which, had he been on legitimate parliamentary business, he would have been entitled to do.
On June 30, Andrew was in Cairns and his wife and two children were in Brisbane. Rather than flying separately, they met in Townsville ($360.60 + $534.32×3). From there they flew to Darwin ($769.74×4). Another $192.47 for cabs, comcar and unexplained small charges were claimed for that day.
They overnighted in Darwin before setting out for Kununurra by car ($1,370.88). On the way they spent a night in Katherine and another in Timber Creek before arriving for four nights in Kununurra.
Apparently (according to Laming), their return flight via Darwin on July 7 was cancelled so they had to come home via Perth ($963.01×4 Kunumurra to Perth + $2,290.64×4 Perth to Brisbane).
It would have been a shit load cheaper to stay an extra night rather than spend $3253.65 per person to come the long way home but I guess when you aren’t the one who is paying, those things don’t occur to you.
All up, the trip cost us $19,619.87.
According to the new “Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority”, any claim for expenses must be “for the dominant purpose of parliamentary business”, it must represent “value for money”, and parliamentarians must be “prepared to publicly justify their use of public resources in conducting their parliamentary business.”
‘Parliamentary business’ includes activities that fall within four streams:
- parliamentary duties: covers activities of the Parliamentarian that relate directly to the parliamentarian’s role as a member of Parliament
- electorate duties: activities of the Parliamentarian that support or serve their constituents
- party political duties: activities of the Parliamentarian that are connected with both their political party and their membership of the Parliament
- official duties: activities that relate to the Parliamentarian’s role as an office holder or Minister.
In limited circumstances, a Senator or Member is entitled to ‘family reunion travel’ to enable his or her spouse or nominee, dependent children and designated person(s) to accompany or join the Senator or Member on travel within Australia, at Commonwealth expense, on parliamentary, electorate or official business.
As Laming holds no office, and was many thousands of kilometres from his electorate, it would be interesting to hear what parliamentary duties he performed to give us value for our $20,000.
Then again, the same question could be asked of Malcolm Turnbull who charged us over $150,000 for his week away in Germany, France and the UK on “official business”.
GERMANY FRANCE AND THE UK 5 JUL TO 13 JUL 17 OFFICIAL BUSINESS
Accommodation and meals $67,852.83
Ground transport $23,099.72
Minor official expense advance $378.00
Related travel expenses $33,864.08
Travel advance $243.53
Employee Overseas Costs $28,781.06
Perhaps if politicians were obliged to publish the purpose of their trip, a travel diary showing who they met with, when and where, and a report detailing conclusions/recommendations/achievements, along with receipts showing a bit more detail than “related travel expense”, we would be in a better position to judge if we are getting “value for money”.