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Sinking the Slipper, or Putting the Boot In

In Australian slang, “Sinking the slipper” has a number of meanings. It can mean to kick someone, as in a street fight or brawl, or to kick someone when they’re down.

On July 28, Peter Slipper was found guilty of dishonestly using taxi vouchers: ACT Chief Magistrate Lorraine Walker found the former MP dishonestly and knowingly misused the taxpayer-funded vouchers on three days in 2010. The case was adjourned, and Mr Slipper will appear for sentencing on September 22.

There is no doubt about his guilt. He misused $954 of taxpayer’s funds claiming expenses that were private, not parliamentary. It is possible that Slipper might face a goal term. Whatever his sentence he is a disgraced politician and rightly so.

But is he alone in his guilt? Is it fair that other politicians, including the prime minister, were allowed to repay expenses under the Minchin Protocol, which allows for the repayment of wrongly claimed entitlements, while others get off scott free? The protocol came about because of the abuse of the system, and it allowed members to repay money without further consequences when controversy arose.

Mr Slipper has on a number of occasions said that he tried to repay the money under the Minchin Protocol, but the avenue has been denied him:

“What is breathtaking is that I am before a court … despite a number of attempts on my part to resolve the matter administratively.”

Why is he in the courts, then? It can only be put down to LNP payback for his taking the Speaker’s job. But of course, with Royal Commissions into everything but the Labor Party itself, conservatives have shown a considerable propensity for retaliation generally, even to the point of releasing cabinet documents.

Does Slipper deserve a gaol sentence? Most certainly not. If he does, the law will have been shown to be an ass. He should have been given the same opportunity to repay the money that the others had. Already the commonwealth have spent $70,000 in pursuit of $954.

Attorney General George Brandis has never adequately explained why the Commonwealth pursued him over such a paltry amount and who it was who took the complaint to the AFP.

By way of comparison, let’s look at Tony Abbott’s top 25 claims:

Abbott’s age of entitlement: Tony’s Top Twenty-five:.

In 2009 Tony Abbott falsely claimed flight and comcar costs while promoting his book and had to repay $9397.42. Here are 25 other examples of Abbott’s work-related claims:

  1. In August 2009 Tony Abbott claimed $1720 in travel allowance + $1,883 for flights while “volunteering” as a truancy assistant in Aurukun
  2. In April 2010 Tony Abbott claimed $1539 travel allowance for all nights of his Pollie Pedal charity bike ride from Melbourne to Sydney + $480 flight to Melbourne
  3. In November 2010 Tony Abbott and family claimed $420 travel allowance, $1956 for flights + $354 in comcar costs to attend the Melbourne Cup
  4. In December 2010 Tony Abbott and family claimed $1910 for flights + $171 in comcar costs to attend day 1 of Boxing day Ashes test in Melbourne
  5. In April 2011 Tony Abbott claimed $2875 travel allowance for all nights of his Pollie Pedal charity bike ride from Gold Coast to Sydney + $556 flight to Brisbane
  6. In May 2011 Tony Abbott and family claimed $420 travel allowance, $1646 in flights + $599 in comcar costs to attend the AFL Dreamtime game in Melbourne
  7. In September 2011 Tony Abbott (+ passenger) claimed $744 travel allowance + $12133 for chartered flights from Sydney to St George and back to Brisbane to attend the Birdsville races
  8. In October 2011 Tony Abbott and family claimed $424 travel allowance, over $823 for flights + $550 in comcar costs to attend the AFL grand final in Melbourne
  9. In October 2011 Tony Abbott claimed $5623 for a chartered flight from Sydney to Bathurst return to attended the Bathurst 1000 V8 supercars
  10. In October 2011 Tony Abbott and family claimed $848 travel allowance, $3722 for flights + $763 in comcar costs to attend the Victoria Derby in Melbourne
  11. In October 2011 Tony Abbott claimed $351 travel allowance while “volunteering” as builder’s labourer in Hopevale
  12. In November 2011 Tony Abbott claimed $349 travel allowance + $941 for flights to compete in 70.3 Port Macquarie ironman event
  13. In January 2012 Tony Abbott claimed $424 travel allowance, $771 for flights + $515 in comcar costs to attend the men’s final of the Australian Tennis Open in Melbourne
  14. In January 2012 Tony Abbott (and passenger) spent $9347 to charter a flight to Tamworth to attend the Tamworth Country Music festival.
  15. In January 2012 Tony Abbott claimed $349 travel allowance + $1095 flights to Melbourne to compete in Pier to Pub swim in Lorne
  16. In January 2012 Tony Abbott claimed $736 travel allowance, $1438 flights + $684 in comcar costs to participate in the Tour Down Under Charity ride in Adelaide
  17. In March 2012 Tony Abbott claimed $3141 travel allowance for all nights of his Pollie Pedal charity bike ride from Geelong to Canberra + $482 flight from Canberra to Melbourne
  18. In April 2012 Tony Abbott claimed $349 travel allowance + $2023 flights to compete in Hervey Bay Surf Lifesaving Pier to Pub swim
  19. In May 2012 Tony Abbott claimed $424 travel allowance, $909 in flights + $328 in comcar costs to attend AFL Dreamtime game in Melbourne
  20. In August 2012 Tony Abbott claimed $234 travel allowance while “volunteering” at Aurukun Mission and claimed $9636 for charter travel to/from Aurukun
  21. In August 2012 Tony Abbott claimed $349 travel allowance + $650 flights to compete in Coffs Coast Cycle Challenge
  22. In Sept 2012 Tony Abbott claimed $354 travel allowance + $160 flights to compete in Wagga ‘Lake to Lagoon’ fun run
  23. In Sept 2012 Tony Abbott and family claimed $429 travel allowance, $1480 in flights + $540 in comcar costs to attend the AFL grand final
  24. In November 2012 Tony Abbott and family claimed $848 travel allowance, $1053 for flights + $594 in comcar costs to attend the Victorian Derby in Melbourne
  25. In December 2012 Tony Abbott claimed $1108 travel allowance for three nights while driving a big rig down the Pacific Highway.

That’s over $84,000 in work-related travel entitlements Abbott claimed while “volunteering”, running, swimming, cycling and attending major sporting events. There are of course many others from both sides who have repaid wrongly paid expenses:

• Attorney-General George Brandis repaid nearly $1,700 he had claimed from the taxpayer to attend the wedding of radio announcer Michael Smith in 2011.
• Former Attorney General Mark Dreyfus was forced to repay $466 claimed while he was away from Canberra on a skiing trip in August 2011, which his spokeswoman said was “an administrative error.”
• Former Trade Minister Richard Marles claimed flights to Labor MP Michael Danby’s 2008 Parliament House wedding but said he had meetings in Canberra the next day.
• Wayne Swan, when acting PM in 2010, took his two children to both the AFL grand final replay and NRL grand final by VIP aircraft, costing taxpayers more than $17,000 in one weekend.
• In August 2012 Mr Abbott went to Coffs Harbour for its cycle challenge, claiming $1,002.
• Julia Gillard repaid $4243 in 2007 when she was deputy opposition leader, in relation to her partner Tim Mathieson’s private use of a taxpayer-funded car.
• As a minister Mr Reith racked up a $50,000 phone bill at taxpayers’ expense, which he repaid.

The list goes on and on, yet the rules have never altered. In fact, Abbott’s response was to suggest his colleagues should “err on the side of caution”, and if they had any doubts about their entitlements they should “act immediately to clear the matter up” – but it still goes on.

When the Coalition came to office they promised an end of entitlement. Obviously it didn’t apply to them, because Coalition ministers appear to have developed a taste for VIP jet travel. A review of “special purpose” flights by Fairfax Media, covering the first three months of the Abbott Government, found ministers are routinely opting for a luxury Royal Australian Air Force-operated jet over the commercial alternatives of Qantas and Virgin, yet Department of Finance rules on entitlements state: “When considering tasks for special purpose aircraft, the approving authorities will take into account: a) the availability of flights on major domestic airlines.” However, in a two-month period between October 16 and December 12, 2013, eight ministers took 35 flights on busy intercity routes. The bill to taxpayers was $182,160.

If Peter Slipper gets a gaol sentence it will be a gross miscarriage of justice. Not of the court’s making, but that of a government more intent on punishing people than exercising leadership. Thus far it has been punishment of pensioners, the sick, the young, the unemployed, the opposition, and anyone who disagrees.

Meanwhile, the credit cards are quick to emerge from wallets filled with taxpayer’s funds.

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16 comments

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  1. Dan Dark

    John I haven’t got the statistics, but i am sure that would pay for more urgent needs, like accommodation for the homeless, centres for battered women, resources for asylum seekers, these pollies are living the high life off struggling Aussies, and the worst part is they show no shame, and have a real air of being entitled to tax payers money, excuse me while I go and scream into a pillow 😉 the Coal ition are beyond comprehension….

  2. Kaye Lee

    The use of a VIP jet to bring a group of Western Australian Liberal MPs and members of their staff and families to Canberra for the opening of Federal Parliament has reignited a debate over politicians’ travel entitlements.

    Reporter: “[Federal Liberal MP] Don Randall is coming here with his family along with other MPs from Western Australia on a Boeing business jet – a VIP – that’s costing $30,000… that’s just for the fuel.”

    Mr Pyne: “It’s probably cheaper than bringing them all individually on Qantas or Virgin.”

    Comparable commercial fares would have cost a maximum of $56,260 whereas the cost of sending the VIP jet to Perth would have been a minimum of $140,483 before other costs are added.

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-11-20/is-it-cheaper-for-mps-to-fly-vip-jets/5086058

    Defence Minister David Johnston and Assistant Defence Minister Stuart Robert oversee the Royal Australian Air Force as part of their portfolio responsibilities and they appear to have become enthusiastic fans of its airborne service.

    Between them, they notched up 14 RAAF-operated but taxpayer-funded “special purpose” flights in the first three months of the Abbott government .

    Some flights cost the public up to $14,800 one way, according to the schedule of special purpose flights.

    But research by the ABC Fact Check unit estimates a $15,000 fight actually costs the public closer to $76,000 when landing fees, aircraft leasing, crew and catering are taken into consideration.

    Senator Johnston also ferried Western Australian-based colleagues between Perth and Canberra – a practice pioneered by the previous Labor government and another former defence minister Stephen Smith.

    On occasions the RAAF jet has flown empty to pick up ministers, known as “ghost flights”.

    Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/defence-minister-assistant-notch-up-14-raafoperated-taxpayerfunded-flights-at-76000-each-in-three-months-20140802-zzvew.html#ixzz39Z4V2WGw

  3. Terry2

    John, I cannot see Slipper getting a custodial sentence as to do so would create a significant precedent for employer/ employee relationships throughout our political and commercial environments.

    Normally unauthorised expenditure by an authorised employee (i.e. an employee who has the authority to spend employer funds within approved parameters) would be resolved inhouse; hence the sensible Minchin Protocol which Slipper was denied because somebody had reported the matter to the AFP as a crime against the Commonwealth. In Abbott’s case the Minchin Protocol worked very much in his favour as he is a serial offender and it would be difficult for him to deny that there was no intent to defraud with an established pattern of behaviour and so many instances of a clear contempt for the rules.

    Rarely in the commercial environment would a matter such as the Slipper case reach the status of a criminal act. Rather it would be considered a civil debt between the employee and the employer, the difference here seems to be “criminal intent” on the part of Slipper. This potentially makes the HSU saga and particularly the alleged misappropriations by Kathy Jackson most interesting as it deals with similar facts although she says that she had a blanket authority to spend HSU money as she saw fit.

    As with the ICAC enquiry in NSW and the Unions Royal Commission, the LNP may come to regret the day they first embarked on this pattern of partisan retribution.

  4. Dan Dark

    Thanks for those figures Kaye Lee,
    “Comparable commercial fares would have cost a maximum of $56,260 whereas the cost of sending the VIP jet to Perth would have been a minimum of $140,483 before other costs are added”

    Wow that’s nothing but extravagance, they could do it for a third of the price, if they CHOOSE too,
    They just CHOOSE not to take cheaper option, they are pigs at the trough pure and simple…

  5. Truth Seeker

    John, well said!

    And on a related issue; “Why politics is such a dirty game!”

    Cheers 🙂

  6. brickbob

    A lot of people are doing it tough at the moment trying to rob peter to pay paul,myself included and then we see the politicians gorging themselves at the taxpayer funded trough,and these are the same people who are leaving young people without any form of finacial assistence for 6 months while trying to find jobs that dont even exsist,not to mention all the other cuts they have made to every disadvantaged group in the country,and i feel the pressure cooker is going to blow it’s top very soon and i predict it wont be pretty. I dont pretend to know the solution,but i do know that if this situation is not reversed and quickly,there will be a revolution the like we have never seen in this country. The clock is ticking,and when the alarm goes off,” watch out.””

  7. Dennis

    It use to be “sinking the boot in” not slipper, but your right, it is now.
    People used to slip in a king hit.
    I haven’t read the other replies yet sorry, just wanted to say that a lot involved
    are keeping there mouth shut, fear maybe, some other threats.

  8. FreeThinker

    I suspect that given that the company they aspire to keep ( that is, the big end of town), many LNP parliamentarians feel that the annual salaries they receive( $200,000 to $450,000 plus), are really quite modest.

    Many CEOs and senior executives in the private sector think multiples of $100,000s or millions. Why even senior members of the Commonwealth Public Service earn more than do most parliamentarians ! How insulting is that !

    For them, access to a range of allowances, power and perks ( including superannuation entitlements) assist them to overcome their collective financial inferiority complexes. Labor parliamentarians are of course not immune, but they generally come from a different values constituency.

    The waste involved in pursuing Slipper through the Courts ($70,000) for less than $1,000 is a scandal and deserves greater public awareness. John Lord, you have highlighted this so well in this article, with its exquisite title. The contrast between Slipper’s claims and Abbott’s over some years, raises many questions.

    But there are other less obvious abuses of power. Howard’s decision as Prime Minister to locate himself in Sydney rather than in Canberra, went largely unquestioned, particularly in the Sydney press, and he racked up considerable flight costs back and forward from Kirrabilli to Canberra each week. Abbott seems to be following this same pattern, in his distinctively unique way, seems intent of making Sydney the de facto centre of government, not Canberra.

  9. silkworm

    Abbott and Brandis and the others paid back their rorted entitlements not because they feared prosecution… they did it so there wouldn’t be any negative publicity and charges of hypocrisy against them, which were impediments to their vengeful pursuit of Slipper.

    Let’s not forget that James Ashby’s charges of sexual harrassment, as silly as they were, were also part of this vengeance driven campaign, and that it was Ashby who provided the evidence, illegally acquired, through the theft of Slipper’s diary, of the $900 cabcharge fraud.

    And let us also not forget that Justice Rares found that one of the primary movers in all this is Mal Brough, who sought to steal the seat of Fairfax from Slipper, and which is now held by Clive Palmer, who left the LNP, partly, because of the Ashbygate scandal. Clive knows more about the campaign against Slipper and who is behind it than most anyone, but Clive is not talking.

  10. David Linehan

    Abbott is not using the AFP Barracks as his sleeping quarters of choice for either the cheap nightly rate or the deluxe quality of the accommodation. His true motive must be near and dear to him, particularly as he turned down a luxury house in Canberra, weekly rent in vicinity of $10,000. Now if he was concerned that rent was far too exorbitant, even for a PM as grand as himself, I would be happy to congratulate him on his respect for the public purse. I am not.

    As John has indicated, spending tax payers money has never, I repeat never bothered him in the past. His rubber stamping of the use of VIP jets to frequently transport his Ministers all over the country supports that.
    So there seems to be a very cosy relationship, given the treatment of Mr Slipper, with not only the AFP but some State Police jurisdictions as well.

    Of course it may be just very friendly ”mateship” fostered by his loyal AG Brandis? Yes that’s it, just good ole Aussie mates. Can’t imagine what made me consider otherwise!!!

  11. Dennis Bauer

    As to the plane fares I wonder how much we will be paying Gina over the next few years for taking our pollies to India for the important wedding, and a few working class tax funded meetings with the Coal enthusiasts in India, Oh jolly good stuff. Bamby Joyce went, I cant remember if two tongue tones went. I think so.

  12. Dissenter

    Both the Slipper and Thomson matters while they may have revealed wrongdoing reveal FAR greater wrongdoing from their relentless persecution.
    In this meglamaniac vindictiveness, victimisation and hyopocrisy OVERTOOK all reasonableness in the matter.
    It was a vendetta which still continues to the end apparently in self fulfilling prophesy. As you rightly say the costs do not justify the amount allegedly rorted.
    So the question must still stand as to what happens if these men are incarcerated? If so it will be a miscarriage of justice altogether for political purpose.
    How then may the perpetrators remain untainted by their involvement in the conspiracy to damage and destroy two polticians when the degree of rorting exposed even by Abbott is substantial?
    Could these two matters EXPOSED as they are be large enough to bring a government into destabilising disrepute? I sincerely hope so IF they are STILL IN GOVERNMENT when the time comes.

  13. trevor

    Pigs with their snouts in the trough of public funding.

    The over riding attitude shown by these poor put upon MP’s is one of entitlement.

    It would appear that questions of ethics, probity, proper conduct or whatever other terms cover the behaviour of entitlement, fall a poor last to party political protocols and procedures which are explained to the MP’s on arrival at the great snout trough of Parlimentary use of public funds to subsidise a MP’s costs for extra corricular activities which are (however loosly) tied to a Politicians term of election.

    tis a sick joke, but a well decripted part of a tradition which none in office will willingly change.

    So therefore we the people must somehow willingly bring about change in the traditions of Elected Parlimentary MP’s as MP’s refuse the opportunity to reappraise the outdated traditions, along with a rewriting the rules of conduct of MP’s and their political party control of the Parlimentary workplace.

    Try being on a govt benefit and find yourself owing the Govt.. You will be treated as a criminal and afforded no latitude unless you know how to fight the shitstem.

    Export Abbott not refugees

  14. Anne Byam

    I am more or less speechless, ( but my fingers on the keyboard are still talking ?? ) …. Your article John is excellent – and explosive. And good onya for exposing these Abbott / Liberal rorts. And for exposing the annihilation of Peter Slipper. Yes he resigned … after pressure which allegedly put his health at risk. There were other matters at hand at the time, but I think that just might have been a big set up – to get rid of him. And after all that – $954 worth of alleged ‘rorts’ over the misuse of taxi vouchers ???? What a bleeding joke. They are just a pack of cut-throats.

    Comparing THAT to the following :

    ” That’s over $84,000 in work-related travel entitlements Abbott claimed while “volunteering”, running, swimming, cycling and attending major sporting events “. Volunteering ? Seeking photo ops. would be more accurate, with due respect. I can hear Abbotts mind ticking over now … ” what next can I do, to let everyone see what a great fella I am “? ………… I choked on that summary.

    The Abbott rabble put in the speakers chair ( November 2013 ), a completely biased and unscrupulous speaker. Madam Bronwyn Bishop. She managed to chide and reprimand just ONE of the Liberals – back in May – Ewan Jones who she asked to leave the chamber. WOW. She may have booted a few more since ? I don’t know. She has however, a helluva long way to go to balance the scales against how she lambasts the current Opposition. They haven’t a chance with her screeching for “ORDER” … against anybody in Labor who dares to open his or her mouth. Of course, she uses the extensive ????? experience she’s had on TV and on stage, to project that shrill shriek … and boy does she do that with enthusiasm.

    But … that’s another matter. I get a bit carried away !! And I am ANGRY ( aren’t we all ? ).

    How the HELL can we let this rabid mob get away with all this ? And how the HELL do we stop them ?

  15. Kathryn

    “probably cheaper than Virgin or Qantas” – spoken like someone who has not had to budget for travel costs for a very, very long time.

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