In fact all this really needs is leadership: one decent PM who will say, at the beginning of his or her term in office, "Look, let's stop all this nonsense and all agree to just claim the bare minimum, and let me set up someone whose task it will be to check what you're claiming and disallow anything that would make a reasonable person go, 'Well, that's not reeeeally what the designers of this entitlement had in mind...' "
But since we don't have that, sure, I guess we need to tighten the rules and make them "more transparent". So fine, it's not that hard. In fact, the existing rules are actually pretty clear, except for spelling out what is an allowable business trip.
But ok, here are my new rules:
Travel and Accommodation:
- Business Class air travel is fine
- no charter flights or helicopters unless there is no commercial flight
- no air miles can be accrued (the same rule some companies have for business travel)
- you pay for any family traveling with you
- taxis or hire cars for urban travel but not for travelling between home and your electorate office
- no travel allowance for party fundraisers or social events
- if you have a "work meeting" at the same place as a social event, you pay half the travel cost (and travel rules as above still apply)
- you can't use your accommodation allowance to pay off your mortgage on a Canberra home. Yes you might have bought the home because you have to spend part of the year in Canberra for work, but the fact you are buying it gives you a personal financial advantage (property wealth) so you can't DOUBLE-DIP by claiming an allowance as well.
- To achieve the above, change the flat dollar allowance MPs get for accommodation and food while in Canberra to two separate items, being a flat amount for food and a claim for accommodation, which is only paid for booked-and-paid accommodation
- Stop that nonsense
- Same as the rest of us
- existing redundancy arrangements for MPs who lose their seat are fine
- no funded office or driver. Use a home office
- Scrap the Gold Pass arrangements for free air travel within Australia for retired long-serving MPs - it's encouraging too many of them to stick around for too long. Let's make it 3 free Business Class trips a year for self and spouse, to attend the odd thingy.
I also think it's a good idea as someone has suggested, to rename them from 'entitlements' to 'expenses' or 'claims'. If you are told something is an 'entitlement', you are apt to claim it. Just as many taxpayers routinely put in work expense claims for the couple of hundred dollars' stationery claims you are allowed to make without receipts - and can I just add, that I also think this is appalling. Don't do it, people.
There has been unhappiness about MP entitlements before, but this time it's the current government's own harsh budget and rhetoric ("The age of entitlement is over!" - oh, I love it) combined with Hockey's out-of-touch announcements ("poor people don't drive far", "people should get a good job paying good money") combined with the usual dubious expense claims by all of them, that is bringing this to a head.
To finish off: this is the funniest Bronwyn Bishop helicopter meme in my opinion: