Parliamentary travel expenses and the deeply ingrained culture of entitlement

No one has really addressed the fundamental problem of Parliamentary travel expenses.

It is a problem that is going to be exceptionally difficult to change because any form of culture change takes time. Normally changing a culture will take as long as it took the culture to develop unless there is significant structural change.

Like changing the rules for Parliamentary entitlements.

The problem is a culture that leads MPs think that once they enter Parliament they don’t have to pay for anything anymore. As is right and proper because they work so hard.

The other part of the problem is that they come to believe that they are entitled to the best of everything in terms of travel, hotel accommodation and fine dining

Taxpayers picked up the bill for a $4000 five star “working dinner” that included seven bottles of fine wine hosted by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton at a prestigious luxury hotel in Washington DC.

the-jefferson-hotel_washington_dc_cellar

A ” working dinner” room at the Jefferson hotel

Mr Dutton and 10 guests – including his staff, former US officials and think tank personalities – enjoyed the $360-a-head meal during his three-day visit to the US for high-level talks last February.

And he blew the budget.

dutton

“Not happy, Peter.”

Mr Dutton and his chief of staff Craig Maclachlan were given a budget of $2000 for meals and incidentals for their visit.

But their February 17 three-course dinner alone cost almost double that, at $US2790, which was $3929 at that day’s exchange rate.

This form of behaviour is endemic.

Trade Minister Steve Ciobo has argued the case for politicians to attend sporting events on the taxpayer dime, describing it as the kind of activity that voters expect.

Mr Ciobo, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann and Tasmanian senator David Bushy claimed publicly-funded travel entitlements to go to the 2013 AFL grand final, according to the ABC. Mr Ciobo charged taxpayers $1100 to attend.

mates

 A few old mates get together at the footy

Mr Ciobo also defended using his taxpayer-funded car to attend local sport events in his Queensland electorate of Moncrieff, saying: “I think people expect that”.

Steve Ciobo has hit the wrong nail on the head. He doesn’t realise that taxpayers expect MPs to pay their own way the same way as the average taxpayer must.

Four government ministers billed taxpayers almost $7000 to attend Malcolm Turnbull’s private harbourside New Year’s Eve reception in 2015.

They were Immigration Minister Peter Dutton ( beginning to look a bit like a serial offender), Attorney General George Brandis ( of bookshelves and library fame), Communications Minister Mitch Fifield and Education Minister Simon Birmingham.

The guests were served Chermoula spiced quail breasts with pomegranate molasses and Sydney rock oysters with chardonnay vinegar dressing, at the glitzy 185-person celebration that cost taxpayers almost $10,000.

The problem for the Turnbull government is that this kind of extravagance hits the media while pensions are being cut and the unemployed are being pursued for Centrelink overpayments.

In the writing is on the wall for Malcolm Turnbull and the Coalition government if the latest News poll is an indication.

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