Actually, it’s a matter of too much outrage and too few nostrils. In one year, Bronwyn Bishop managed to spend around $214,000 on travel and related expenses. That is nearly 4 times the median income of $54,548 in Mount Druitt, the area worst hit by the last two Abbott/Hockey budgets.
With the Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey rattling on about the age of entitlement being over, this is an obscenity. Bishop’s defence that she didn’t break any rules is not the point. The political party to which she belongs and continues active membership in her role as Speaker is demanding that the poorest in our society should be tightening their belts. The speaker appears to be letting hers out a couple of notches. The Member for McKellar managed to rack up nearly $400,000 in expenses in a single year. In fairness, some of this is related to the expenses of the office but the vast proportion of it has gone on travel. So why does the Speaker of the House need to travel so much. It’s not as if she has portfolio responsibilities that Cabinet ministers have. The salary of the Speaker of the House of Representatives is $341,477. Surely this is enough to enable the Speaker to dip into her own pocket for the trip such to Geneva to lobby for a plum post-parliament job. But no. She slugged the taxpayer.
On this trip she and her two parliamentary staff colleagues spent $25,000 on two weeks accommodation. That’s around $4000 per week each, around $570 per night. Not a lot by European standards, but enough to be luxuriously comfortable. But they also spent $14,000 on ground travel. That’s $1000 a day riding around, presumably together. There must have been some pretty lengthy day trips built into that one, because the city of Geneva (population 200,000) is only about 5 km in each direction. Perhaps they were travelling in gold-plated Rolls-Royces. Actually you can hire a Bentley (admittedly not gold-plated) for around $A700 a day but I think you have to drive it yourself.
Fairfax Media can reveal the Speaker racked up a $14,000 limo bill in a little over a fortnight during her European trip in October. On the same trip, Mrs Bishop’s four fellow delegates spent between $1200 and $2800 each on ground transport. They typically travelled by public transport or in more modest embassy-arranged cars. “There was a black BMW carting her around like royalty,” said a source involved with the trip. “She wasn’t about to take her eight-inch heels on the subway.”
This level of expenditure by Bishop raises an interesting question: How much would the Speaker have spent on this trip had she been paying for it herself? There’s also a more general and important issue here. The Speaker of the House of Representatives is meant to uphold the standards of our Parliament. The actions of the current speaker would lead many to think she has fallen far short of this.