Over the weekend, The Age published details of Attorney General George Brandis’ lavish spending on a dinner in London. The next day a letter to The Age defended Brandis on the basis that politicians should spend up big taking important people out to dinner and attacked The Age saying the expenditure was not news-worthy.
Let us not forget that Brandis is a member of a government that has waged war on the less fortunate in our society through Joe Hockey’s inequitable and unfair budget. There’s also been a huge amount of hot air about lifters and leaners.
It is probably fair to say that Brandis’ spending is not exceptional for members of this particular government. There has been noticeable rorting of travel expenses by the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the Attorney General (whoops there he goes again) as well as Christopher Pyne’s excessive expenditure on accommodation in London.
Brandis is a serial offender when it comes to rorting taxpayer money. His expenditure on his bookshelves and books in his parliamentary office was nothing short of scandalous. He should be subjected to constant public scrutiny about the way he spends public money particularly when he is spending it on himself.
These matters should be reported in the press because that is the only way that we get to know about them. In the greater scheme of things the expenditure is not huge but it is a matter of principle.
The solution to this kind of rorting is very simple. Parliamentarians should be given a fixed expense allowance from which they pay for dinners, travel, gifts etc. At the end of each financial year, they get to keep what is left over. This means that the expenses will continue to be paid by the taxpayer. But it also means that they’re coming out of the politicians’ pockets and this will make them think more carefully about how they spend the money.
After a couple of years it will be possible to review what has actually been spent on entertaining and what has gone on to politicians pockets. It is at this point that an adjustment in the size of the allowances can be made to reflect how much taxpayers money politicians actually think they should be spending on lavish entertainments.