There’s nothing illegal about it, but it does kinda make you wonder whether pollies are living in the real world as the rest of us, when they can use their travel entitlements to purchase property.
I think few would argue that politicians should be adequately reimbursed for their work related travel and accommodation expenses, however when they are using taxpayers’ funds to purchase a property, then doesn’t this beg the question “who does the property belong to at the end of the day?”
Is it ethical for politicians to use taxpayers funds to purchase property which inevitably will become an asset for that individual if and when they decide to leave politics? Shouldn’t that asset belong to the taxpayer (or the Government) to then use as future accommodation for other politicians and thereby lessen the need for taxpayers money to be allocated towards covering these expenses? Or is it all just a media beat up?
Alison Rehn and Malcolm Farr at news.com.au filed this report:
Taxpayers are paying off federal politicians’ mortgages to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars a year.
A growing number of politicians are buying homes in Canberra to live in during parliamentary sitting weeks – but are still claiming travel allowances.
According to the pecuniary interests list, more than 40 MHRs and senators have bought a house or a unit in Canberra. Even more have purchased “investment” properties in the city.
A Daily Telegraph investigation has found politicians who stay in their own homes during sitting weeks – four to five months a year – are claiming travel allowance.
So taxpayers are effectively paying each of them $215 a night to stay in their own home.
This is not illegal and at least one in five politicians – from both sides of the political spectrum – do it.
Politicians claim a travel allowance for all travel away from their principal place of residence and usually they inject a local economy with funds by staying at a hotel or pub.
But according to the current list of pecuniary interests, at least 40 MHRs and senators own properties which they classify as their “Canberra residence”.
This list includes Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull, Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop and Leader of the House of Representatives, Anthony Albanese.
From March last year, when Ms Gillard bought a property in Kingston, she claimed the travel allowance stipend for 44 days, netting her $8536 (when the allowance was only $194 a night).
Resources and Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson’s wife owns a house in Florey in Canberra, which he uses as his residence when he is staying in the capital.
Between January and June last year, he claimed the travel allowance for 75 days in Canberra, delivering him $14,550.
In the first six months of last year, Small Business Minister Craig Emerson claimed nearly $11,000 in travel allowance for when he was staying in Canberra.
And in a document Dr Emerson lodged only last week as an update to his pecuniary interests, it revealed he gets “periodic income from parliamentarians and staff” who stay at his place during sitting weeks.
Not one MHR or senator would go on the record, and sources would only tell The Daily Telegraph that what they were doing was completely above board.
The issue of MHRs and senators claiming travel allowance came to a head back in early 2007, when it was revealed Mr Turnbull claimed the travel allowance, which he paid to his wife whose apartment he rented.
At the time, the multi-millionaire MP said he was doing nothing wrong.
“Where you stay is of no concern to the Government. That’s the way the system works,” he said back in 2007.