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OK Pollies – time’s up. It’s the end of your age of entitlement

At the time of being elected, the government proclaimed that there was a debt and deficit emergency. They needed to clean up Labor’s mess, they said. Once elected, Joe Hockey declared: “The age of entitlement is over“. There must be cuts, cuts and more cuts. o pensioners, to health, to education, the ABC, SBS and so on…

There’s been plenty written about how there was no debt and deficit emergency, no mess to clean up back in 2013, and how since coming into office, rather than improving Australia’s financial situation, Abbott and Hockey have turned our economy into a basket case, and that we now have the world’s worst debt trajectory. So I’m not going to focus there.

What I am going to look at, is one small but wealthy pocket of entitlement that Hockey and his buddies have left untouched in their cutting frenzy. A pocket that has been getting a bit of press in the last week or so – our federal politicians’ expense claims. And if you thought Ms Bishop’s $5,000 helicopter ride was bad, hold on to your beanies and scarves, as that is just the very small tip of a very large political expenseberg.

So exactly how big is the Canberra Expenseberg?

In 2014, according to the Department of Finance, it was the better part of 96 million dollars. That what our federal politicians spent on expenses. And when I say expenses, I’m not talking about salaries or superannuation. I’m purely referring to their expense claims – for travel, office rental, phones, taxis etc.

To break this down a little further – there are 150 members in our House of Representatives and 76 senators in the Senate. That’s 226 federal political snouts. And while there was changeover of seats during 2014 (such as when the Senate changed in July) – meaning there was actually 307 individuals who filled those 226 seats during the year – there’s only ever one politician in a seat at a time able to claim expenses.

That means that the average annual expense-claim for each of the 226 seats of parliament in 2014 was around $424,000. Nearly half a million dollars. Each. Here’s a high level break-down on how the pollies spent our money:


It’s time for an Expenseberg Commissioner

Clearly our current politicians have forgotten that they were elected to represent the Australian people, to serve us, and not to rule over us in the lap of luxury. Or perhaps they are too busy micromanaging the ABC and appointing Wind Commissioners to look into their own expense entitlements.

So I have taken the liberty of appointing myself as the Canberra Expenseberg Commissioner – just temporarily – to see how much we could save if I applied a judicious knife to the Canberra political expense slush fund. I did some quick calculations on the back of an envelope this afternoon, and came up with the following cuts.

So listen up Canberra Pollies – the following cuts to your precious Expenseberg apply immediately:

1. Your Travel Expenses

These cost the Australian taxpayer just under $33.6 million in 2014. I’m cutting your allowance to $12.3 million moving forward. That’s plenty. Here’s how it’s going to work:

  • No more charter flights, choppers or anything else – None. Zip. Nada. You can fly commercial, rent a car or get public transport like the rest of us.
  • No more overseas junkets – I’m providing you all with a collective allowance of $500,000 to split amongst yourselves for trips that are absolutely necessary. Two week trips to Geneva that cost $88,084 to get yourself a sought after international posting are NOT absolutely necessary Ms Bishop. If you do have to travel internationally, you can fly premium economy and stay in four star hotels. Ministers with international portfolios get first dibs. The rest of you get what’s left.
  • No more hire cars – that means you Jamie Briggs – no more $583 dollar rides. Each of you can have an allowance of up to $5,000 per year to get around when you’re in Canberra or otherwise away from home. Use this to rent a car with one of your political colleagues, take an Uber X or car pool with your local colleagues. We don’t care – as long as you stop wasting our money.
  • Domestic Travel/Travel Allowance for accommodation – for some reason, according to the OpenAus website, the average Liberal minister or senator spent about $70,000 on this in 2014, whereas their Labor counterparts spent $45,000. Both amounts seem excessive, but for now I’m capping all pollies at the Labor level. Those who live further away (like WA or Tassie) can have a little more, and those that live in the ACT or NSW a little less. But if the Labor pollies can get by on an average of $45,000 per year, you all can. Don’t get comfortable though – I may cut this further later – particularly for those of you who are using the allowance to pay off your wife’s mortgage.Oh – and no more using taxpayer funds to travel to political fundraisers, for any reason. I don’t care if you’re the speaker at the event or manning the BBQ – if the purpose of the event is to raise funds for your party, we’re not paying for it.

These cuts will mean that some of you will no longer be able to travel like rockstars. But it will save us, the people who pay your salaries and your expenses, over $22 million a year – so deal with it.

2. Your office costs

You spent just under $58 million on office costs in 2014. I’m cutting this in half, and here’s how . . .

Firstly, regarding your decorating budgets – in 2014, you collectively spent just under 6.7 million on fitting out your offices. In fact, Jacqui Lambe spent $456,793 on her offices in Burnie – that’s enough to fund the Refugee Council of Australia for three years. From now on, there’ll be less Italian custom furniture and more Swedish everyday furniture. You don’t need to redecorate every couple of years. Instead, we’ll give you an allowance of $10,000 when you first take office. And that’s it. Spend it wisely.

Secondly, when it comes to your office rent and office admin, as was the case with your travel expenses, the average Liberal minister and senator pays significantly more than their Labor counterpart. So I’m cutting you all back to the amount the average Labor pollie spends. We’re not funding you to rent prime office space. We spend enough on Parliament house already.

These cuts will save us, the Australian taxpayer, over 28.6 million dollars a year.

3. Phones and family travel

Let’s start with your phone bills. You’re all like teenagers who don’t pay their own mobile bills. Have you ever heard of Skype? Or VOIP? Or Mobile Phone plans with calls included? Clearly not. Because collectively, you all spent over $2.3 million on your phone bills.

Moving forward, you’ll be capped at $200 each a month for all calls. That will encourage you to go out and shop wisely for your phone providers.

And as for taxpayers covering your family’s travel costs – that’s not happening anymore. If they ride in the Uber X car with you, or share a ride in Scott Ludlam’s Prius – no worries. But that’s it.

These cuts will save us a further $3.6 million in total a year.

And here’s what we can do if you tighten your belts …

These cuts to the Canberra Expenseberg will save the Australian people over $53 million a year. Simply by cutting back on luxuries – like riding by chopper from Melbourne to Geelong – we, the Australian people, could get back some of the things you’ve taken away from us since the Libs came into government.

To give you an idea of what we could be spending these cuts to your luxuries on, I’ve had a quick look back through some of the cuts that have been made since September 2013. Here’s some option on how we could use these savings to generate jobs and benefit the Australian people as a whole:

Option A: Restore funding to the ABC

Yep. With the saving we make from you pollies learning to love economy class and shopping at Ikea, we could completely restore the funding you slashed from our national broadcaster, and still have money left over for some of the smaller programmes I mention below.

Option B: Restore funding to a whole range of programs

  • Restore funding to the CSIRO at $29 million a year. The funding cuts you made slashed the jobs of between one in five and one in ten CSIRO scientists. That’s not on. We want them back. They add much more value to us than the hand-embroidered cushions in Jacqui Lambe’s new office fit-out.
  • Give us back the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner at $2.55 million a year – these guys used to process our Freedom of Information requests. And quite clearly we need information about what you are doing. Making it harder for us to do this is not a good thing.
  • Reinstate the Climate Commission at $1.25 million a year – we’ve all been funding it since you cut it, but it’s really your responsibility. And it’s about time you did something practical about global warming.
  • Continue funding the Custody Notification Service at only $0.526 million a year – it’s a bargain. And it literally saves Aboriginal lives. Cutting it so that you can all take hire cars is not on.
  • Commence funding the Human Rights Education programme at $0.45 million a year – we are in sore need of more information on this topic.
  • Restore the Get Reading Programme at $1.6 million a year – this dealt with child literacy. Cutting it while you kept going on your overseas junkets was not a good idea.
  • Give the Refugee Council of Australia back their $140,000 a year – it’s small change to you.
  • Use the balance of nearly $20 million in savings to pay back debt.

I don’t care which option you choose. Either way, your age of entitlement is over Pollies. Snouts out of the trough. You are the servants of the Australian people. And we want you to spend OUR money on things that benefit US and not you.

This article was first published on Progressive Conversation.

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  1. Arthur Baker

    Absolutely superb!

  2. lefturnahead

    These suggestions you have offered the pollies make a lot of sense,in fact they are common sense prudent responsible ideas to not only save the taxpayer money,but to reallocate it where it will do the most good,yes all good common sense ideas,and that’s why the bastards will nevet act on any of them.”””

  3. Peter Ball

    well said

  4. David

    Well put together. Sadly nothing will change.

  5. Owen

    It would sure go a long way to bridge the Gap between Pollies and those they serve, Perhaps you could also apply the seniors assets test to the Parliamentary Pension too .. We can’t have taxpayers paying for peoples retirement that can afford their own….. It is the the logic for the Test! Surely we don’t need to fund inheritance!

  6. Keitha Granville

    I am forwardding this to the Labor party for comment. If they adopted this before the next election, or even said they were discussing it, they would romp into power !

  7. shelle

    Yet they still need to cheat, double dip, rort & leech?? Unbelievable the rulers of this ‘Entitlement is Over” Fiasco :/

  8. josephinewadlow

    I am absolutely enthralled – and as a person, through decades of farming and the use of systemic chemicals find myself somewhat isolated from the world which includes people and everyday living – MCS is the term used – so to keep myself occupied, send stern letters to all and sundry which in fact produces at times frantic responses from recalcitrant Ministers and their Staff – you know the deny, deny and deny again ones.

    The comment sending stern letters is in relation to this absolutely brilliant article/blog in that I will be forwarding it to just about every Minister – most especially those that you have mentioned…

    Thank you so much…

    Josephine Wadlow-Evans

  9. Kate M

    Love your work Josephine 🙂

  10. Maureen Walton

    Great Read thanks. Just shows how Great things can be improved by taking from the Rich and Giving back to the more deserved and allowing them to then give us the peole all much more information. Than Goverment by removing money etc is Blocking..

  11. diannaart

    Great work!

    Which will be countered by the usual whine of “politicians give up high paying jobs in the private sector to become public servants… blah blah, blah…”

    So do people work choose to work for Medecins sans Frontieres and other worthy charities. So do many who opt for jobs where they can do some good – ambos, nurses, teachers fire-fighters and so on.

    Why should just politician’s be overcompensated for possible sacrifices they might have made. From where I’m sitting a career in politics looks very financially rewarding, even without all the bells and whistles and the massive life time pension. Some people might think politics a good choice over working in a fish ‘n chip shop or even as the local lawyer.

  12. Rafe Falkiner

    Average of $1161.00 per day per politician, 365 days a year…… Appalling…. Next election. Referendum to stop this & Their wages % indexed to the minimum wage & Pensions treated with the same means test as the rest of us. No more US & THEM. Federal, State & Local.

  13. Rosemary (@RosemaryJ36)

    The cost to us of granting power to those purporting to represent us. Pigs are flying!

  14. JohnB

    Great article – well done Kate M.
    However I must add – you should also find some funds for a Federal ICAC, as we would then be rid of half of them at least.

    I fear that without an ICAC, if you applied your suggested cuts, the corporate employers of the army of lobbyists in Canberra (4 for every elected politician), and other transnationals, would exploit the void – offering ‘mutually irresistible synergies and opportunities’ to our luxury deprived careerist pollies as a means of stealthily acquiring what remains of Australia’s common-wealth.

  15. Itsazoosue

    Great post! I believe that MP’s salaries should be based on the mean wage. In what other industry can you earn hundreds of thousands in an entry level position with no educational pre-requisites?

  16. Ross in Gippsland

    If, in the near future you spy a chauffeur driven Rolls Royce thundering majestically down a freeway near you, Australian flags snapping smartly erect in the breeze, police outriders scattering ordinary motorists aside, Blackhawk helicopters chattering menacingly overhead, grim faced steely eyed black clad SAS troopers manning the side mounted heavy machine guns, fingers on hair triggers, ready to meet any untoward movements with extreme prejudice.
    Fear not fair citizen, it’s not the queen, a president or some foreign potentate it’s only Bronnie heading to the latest Liberal Party fundraiser.
    As she passes, bow down, tremble and obey.

  17. Matters Not

    Re the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner:

    these guys used to process our Freedom of Information requests.

    No they didn’t. Freedom of Information requests are processed within individual Departments. There the decision to ‘provide’, ‘deny’ or whatever is made without any reference to the Information Commissioner.

    It is only when an individual thinks he/she is denied information in ‘whole or ‘part ‘ and believes it’s the wrong decision and decides to appeal that the Information Commissioner gets involved.

    What has been affected is the ‘appeal’ mechanism. Clearly the government doesn’t like scrutiny.

    Everything is an ‘operational matter’ these days.

  18. donwreford

    I once heard that the high pay of politicians were to avoid their human weakness of being prone to corruption as they would be satisfied having relative to the average wage earner money that most would salivate to have their job with that amount of perks and salary, in fact what this money tree does is just the opposite is to have people drawn to politics with being attracted to not only money but also perks and often power, as a spiritual quality of the finer aspects of humanity? I would say they are a pretty dismal lot, one other point that many may raise is that they do not get that much compared with what some get? here I mean those who get some millions per annum? I suggest they are over paid and the most anyone should get is from the lowest paid to the highest should be no more than a ratio of 250 to one.

  19. Lizzie

    Great article. I’d like to know at what stage can the Australian people file a lawsuit against this government for NOT working in the best interests of the people? A Dutch group called Urgenda recently took the Dutch government to court for its failings to protect the people from the effects of climate change – and they won!

  20. Dave B

    Don’t forget that travel entitlements, almost inexplicably, apply to partners as well. I travel a lot for work, and not once has my company offered, or have I felt it necessary, to pay for my partner too. Indeed, politics is the only industry it seems where partners are a necessary part of business travel.

  21. Jexpat

    Talk about running with, enabling and legitimising Liberal party frames, narrative and language- this article does all of that and more.

    Congratulations to the author for being her own (or rather progressive folks’) worst enemy.

  22. oldfart

    I know of very senior public servants putting their spouses on the payroll just prior to an overseas junket and taking them with them as a PA. so not only did they get the free trip, but were paid for it as well

  23. M Paul

    Finishing my 40th year of teaching..taught approx 6000 student, most hopefully into a gainful profession.I feel that is a worthy result but I have to pay train fares, my meals etc AND keep working pass retirement age because as a single Mum of 3 kids, I couldnt save because I had to feed, educate them.Oh, and I am a public servant too….Equitable?..methinks not!

  24. Judy Niblett

    Fantastic reading.. Happy to administer and be a compliance / verification officer. They wouldn’t get away with a bottle of water with me!!!

  25. Pamela Richards

    Well written, although I do believe you left out one of the biggest “snout in the trough” atrocities…….the pollies superannuation. Absolutely magnanimous in feeding their faces with “entitlements” with that one.

  26. diannaart

    Too true, Pamela

  27. Pingback: OK Pollies – time’s up. It’s the end of YOUR age of entitlement. | Progressive Conversation

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