It’s not easy being a politician. Every day there are challenges that the average punter doesn’t have to face.
Just take the dilemma that Stuart Robert, Dan Tehan and Simon Birmingham had to face last year when deciding whether to go from Canberra to Sydney for a Liberal Party piss up. They had booked their flights and had their staffers book them into an upmarket Sydney hotel when some pesky intern in the minister’s office had the temerity to ask “but who’s going to pay?”
This was a Liberal Party fundraiser with seating, within winking distance of one of these luminaries, costing around $10,000 a head; that included a rubber chicken dinner, a glass of spumante and an elbow nudge with your favourite minister – it’s not clear if a bathroom encounter across a urinal was an optional extra.
The round trip including accommodation came in at $4,500 and it was this that the young intern was questioning: who’s going to pay for that?
Well, as The AIMN alumni will readily recall, we have been down this particular rabbit hole before and really it’s a rhetorical question as we know who’s going to pay, don’t we?
Remember, there was show me the chopper, Bronnie who travelled to a Liberal Party fundraiser by helicopter at the expense of the taxpayer. She was busted and had to go. She now delights us on a daily basis from Murdoch’s murky basement that we have come to know as Sky after Dark.
Not to mention former federal health minister Sussan Ley who found it necessary to make numerous trips to the Gold Coast on electoral business at the taxpayer’s expense. The more attentive among you will have noted that her electorate is the federal division of Farrer in NSW. So you may well ask why would she be attending the needs of her electorate from the Gold Coast whilst coincidentally viewing luxury investment properties … if that is the question you are raising, let it be known that Spud Dutton has your name and is likely to be popping a tracking device into your shopping bag at the first opportunity.
Anyhow, for Sussan, she had to stand down and went into a Liberal party re-education program which worked out very well as she has now been fully rehabilitated and is fronting as the minister for the environment: yes, the Gold Coast is part of the environment so it’s win-win!
So it was determined that we couldn’t go on stiffing the taxpayer for ministerial frolics so what is known as the dominant purpose test was introduced which basically means that the bean-counters in Treasury will identify, based on the information provided by the minister, what the dominant purpose of the trip was. If it was fair-dinkum ministerial or government business then you and I pay for it. If not, then the minister or the Liberal party pays – stop laughing this is serious!
There is also the which came first test which allows Treasury to determine if the ministerial business was just an afterthought and the real purpose of the trip was to get on the slops with your mates in Sydney. Timing thus becomes critical to this evaluation: which diversionary activity was first cab off the rank. This involves tossing a coin and making a couple of quick phone calls
Back to our three heroes. They decided that it was far more suitable and appropriate for you and I to pay for this trip rather than troubling their own pockets or those of the Liberal Party.
This morning Minister for Education, Dan Tehan told the ABC that he had a long-standing commitment to visit a school in Sydney – the name of which eluded him – and this was the dominant purpose of the trip and the Liberal party fundraiser was but a serendipitous coincidence that he happened to include in his busy program.
Stuart Robert, Minister for Government Services [remember his dodgy home internet usage – nudge nudge, wink wink, say no more !] believes he may have been chasing a pensioner in Bankstown for welfare overpayments that robodebt had missed and the fundraiser was just a happy marriage of interests in his very busy schedule.
Simon Birmingham, Minister for trade is still checking his diary and will get back to us but I can guarantee you that he was probably keeping a long-term prior commitment to see a man about a dog.
Heads they win, tails you lose!
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