Not good enough Madam Speaker

House of Representatives Speaker Bronwyn Bishop has described allegations she misused her travel allowance as a “political beat-up” and says she is sorry they distracted attention from Labor leader Bill Shorten.

 Speaker Bronwyn Bishop ponders her next response to the travel rorts scandal.  Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP
Speaker Bronwyn Bishop ponders her next response to the travel rorts scandal.
Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

In a short statement issued on Thursday afternoon, Bishop contended the travel last November was conducted within the rules. This particular reimbursement was to avoid “any doubt”.

When Bronwyn Bishop says that her travel is “within the rules”, she means she is entitled to it. But the problem is that the government of which she is a member, has been pretty hot and strong on entitlements, on lifters and leaners. And she is beginning to look very much like leaner.

Bishop was neither apologetic nor contrite for spending $5200 on a helicopter ride to attend a Liberal Party fundraiser. She contended repaying the money was apology enough for what she said was “clearly an error of judgment”. When the ABC made an  “error of judgement” over the appearance of Zaky Mallah on Q&A, Tony Abbott said “heads must roll.”  Obviously there are different standards for the ABC and the speaker of the House of Representatives in the Prime Minister’s mind.

Bronwyn Bishop first came to the federal parliament in 1987. That means she’s been there 28 years. As Speaker of the House, it is her job to know and enforce the rules.

Speaker Bronwyn Bishop: good at making sure everybody else follows the rules
Speaker Bronwyn Bishop: good at making sure everybody else follows the rules

So it’s probably reasonable to expect that she wouldn’t be making “errors of judgement” particularly on the sensitive issue Related to what appears to be the extremely extravagant  spending of taxpayers’ money.

But the expenses of the helicopter trip pale into insignificance against the spending in Geneva. And a full explanation of this needs to be given for each of the $90,000. It’s no good for the Speaker to hide behind the fact she’s admitted an error of judgement and repaid the money for the helicopter trip. There needs to be a full examination of what went on in Geneva.

When questioned about the $90,000 spent on this trip, her response was “It wasn’t $90,000, it was $88,000.” Well, that’s okay then, that sets the record straight.

Bishop is clearly not going to resign. Why should she? She’s on a salary of over $300,000 a year, with an annual expense account in excess of that and the Prime Minister is standing by her.

Bill Shorten shouldn’t push too hard for her to resign. The longer she stays, the worse she and Tony Abbott look.

 Bill Shorten has every right to feel smug
Bill Shorten has every right to feel smug

The Abbott government’s Royal Commission is pursuing Bill Shorten over  of its own money $40,000 that labour hire company Unibilt spent  to partially fund a campaign manager for Shorten yet appears to be unconcerned over the speaker spending double that amount  of taxpayers money on what appeared to be fairly questionable travel expenses.

Someone will need to talk to Tony about the political costs of not cutting Bronwyn Bishop loose. Probably only one person who is brave enough to do that.

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