Showing posts with label Age of Entitlement. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Age of Entitlement. Show all posts

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Don't laugh, this Nationals MP was serious


David Arthur Gillespie of Wauchope entered the Australian Parliament in 2013 as a National Party Member of the House of Representatives representing the Lyne electorate, with an annual salary many of his constituents can only dream about.

He is quite literally a man of property – aside from his house and farm he owns four commercial and residential investment properties, which appear to be snugly sitting in one or more family trusts along with a portfolio of shares.

His total parliamentary entitlements expenditure paid by the Department of Finance was $65,512.97 in 2013,  $399,946.31 in 2014, $339,797.06 in 2015 and $381,651 in 2016.

Yet two years ago he caught the greed bug and wanted more, more, more………..

ABC News, 2 December 2017:

The Prime Minister's Department has lost a two-year fight to conceal a minister's bid for thousands of dollars in extra pollie-perks, including charter flights and boat rides.

Former speaker Bronwyn Bishop's taxpayer-funded helicopter ride sparked an inquiry into politicians' entitlements.

Most MPs and senators' submissions were publicly released, but bureaucrats decided to hide Nationals MP David Gillespie's proposal.

After a lengthy freedom of information (FOI) battle, the ABC can reveal Dr Gillespie argued politicians in seats like his should annually be given:

* Nearly $15,000 extra "charter allowance" for charter flights, hire cars, boat rides or taxis
* 14 days more travel allowance for overnight stays within the electorate
* An additional office
* One more full-time employee

Dr Gillespie is the member for Lyne on the New South Wales mid-north coast.

He argued the boost would help meet "the significant logistical challenges that confront all rural MPs in meeting the needs and expectations of their constituents".

"If the additional costs are $10 million, it is a small price to pay to ensure fairness within our democracy is delivered," he wrote in the October 2015 submission.

Dr Gillespie wanted extra expenses for all electorates 10,000 square kilometres or larger.

The Assistant Health Minister's seat is about 16,000 square kilometres in size, and includes towns of Taree and Wauchope.

If implemented today, 24 Coalition MPs would benefit, along with six Labor members and two independents.

Electorates 100,000 square kilometres or larger would have received an even bigger windfall under the blueprint.

But the Government has only partly adopted one of his ideas by funding an extra office in Australia's seven biggest electorates — a group of seats that does not include Lyne.

I’m sure David Gillespie is as pleased with mainstream media outing this attempted cash grab as he was when they reported this……

The Sydney Morning Herald, 1 October 2017:

A Turnbull government minister is facing up to $500,000 in personal legal bills to defend his job against a Labor High Court challenge.

While the government is covering the costs of the seven federal politicians referred to the court over their citizenship status, the eighth MP facing constitutional eligibility questions is not getting the same assistance.

Labor is challenging Assistant Health Minister David Gillespie's right to stay on in Federal Parliament, putting the government's slender majority at risk, because it believes he may have an indirect financial interest in the Commonwealth – grounds for disqualification under section 44(v) of the constitution.

As revealed by Fairfax Media in February, the Nationals MP owns a small suburban shopping complex in Port Macquarie and one of the shops is an outlet of Australia Post – a government-owned corporation.

The Lighthouse Beach Australia Post outlet in Port Macquarie owned by Nationals MP David Gillespie. 
Photo: Peter Daniels

Alley v Gillespie [2017] HCA is scheduled to be heard on Tuesday,12 December 2017 by High Court of Australia.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

The problem of dual citizenship for Australian federal politicians is not a new one so why has this current batch made such a hash of the solution?


Australian Electoral Commission nomination form advice re Sec 44 of the Australian Constitution

This is former Liberal MP Alex Somlyay - elected 1990 and retired 2013 - as reported in the Sunshine Coast Daily on 19 July 2017:

Alex Somlyay, who represented Fairfax for 23 years from 1990 to 2013, is the son of Hungarian refugees who arrived in Australia after World War Two as stateless persons.
Mr Somlyay says Ms Waters' predicament in an unintended consequence that needed to be fixed…..
Mr Somlyay is particularly attuned to Mr Waters' forced resignation because of events that played out which could have threatened his own parliamentary career.
His parents became Australian citizens and Mr Somlyay was born in Australia.
But the fall of the Iron Curtin saw Hungary again become an independent country which immediately gave citizenship to the diaspora that fled as refugees and their children.
"I was already in Parliament,” he said. "I went to see the Hungarian ambassador and wrote a letter relinquishing any Hungarian rights.”

With the holding of dual citizenship being a specific bar to nominating as a candidate at a federal general election or by-election the answer for such dual citizens has always been straightforward even in complex situations.

Before nominating check your citizenship status and if by virtue of having a parent, grandparent or great-grandparent who was born overseas you find you either hold foreign citizenship by descent or may be entitled to such citizenship then take the appropriate steps to formally renounce this citizenship.

Even in the late 1800s Australia was a multicultural society with people holding foreign citizenship permanently migrating here from Europe, Asia, Africa, the Americas and Oceania.

The framers of the Australian Constitution were well aware of this fact and set out one simple rule disqualifying any person who is under any acknowledgment of allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power, or is a subject or a citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or a citizen of a foreign power from sitting as a representative of the people in the federal parliament. 

The only exception when the Consitution was enacted was for persons born in the United Kingdom (or in certain cases its colonies) as it was not then considered a foreign power.

The right to nominate as a candidate in an election is now reserved for persons of good character who hold only Australian citizenship - whether by birth, descent or naturalisation - and hold no office of profit under the Crown.

The High Court of Australia so ruled in Sykes v Cleary in 1992, in Free v Kelly & Australian Electoral Commission in 1996 and again in Re Canavan; Re Ludlam; Re Waters; Re Roberts [No 2]; Re Joyce; Re Nash;Re Xenophon in October 2017

Only an overweening sense of self-importance and an unswerving belief in their own entitlement can explain why in 2017 there are so many politicians with questions against their names when it comes to a right to be sitting in the Australian Parliament.

And only a steely determination not to be fully held to account sees the Turnbull Government suggesting that a declaration to the Australian Parliament by already elected politicians somehow trumps any false or misleading written declaration they may have made as part of their nomination as candidates.


RECOMMENDED READING
                
8 November 2017, YaThink? Let’s stop pretending. We want this Government to burn at the stake!

STATE OF PLAY

Growing list of federal parliamentarians found to be ineligle to stand:

1. Greens Senator for Western Australia Scott Ludlum – first elected 2007, resigned from parliament admitting dual citizenship 14.7.2017, High Court ruled ineligible due to dual citizenship 27.10.17
2. Greens Senator for Queensland Larissa Joy Waters – first elected 2010, resigned from parliament admitting dual citizenship 18.7.17, High Court ruled ineligible due to dual citizenship 27.10.17

3. Liberal MP for New England Barnaby Thomas Gerard Joyce – first elected 2004, refused to resign from parliament, High Court ruled ineligible due to dual citizenship 27.10.27

4. Liberal Senator for NSW Fiona Joy Nash – first elected 2004, refused to resign from parliament, High Court ruled ineligible due to dual citizenship 27.10.27

5. One Nation Senator Malcolm Ieuen Roberts – first elected 2016, refused to resign from parliament, High Court ruled ineligible due to dual citizenship 27.10.17

6. Liberal Senator for Tasmania Stephen Shane Parry – first elected 2004, resigned from parliament admitting dual citizenship on or about 2.11.17

7. Liberal MP for Bennelong John Gilbert Alexander – first elected 2010, resigned from parliament (refused to publicly confirm dual citizenship) on or about 11.11.2017

8. Jacqui Lambie Network Senator for Tasmania Jacqui Lambie – first elected 2013, resigned from parliament admitting dual citizenship 14.11.17

9. Liberal senator-elect Hollie Hughes found to be eligibility by the High Court on 15 November 2017 due to the fact that she holda an office of profit under the Crown

Friday, 8 September 2017

Australian Politics 2017: Greed Unlimited #2


Former Liberal MP for Dunkley Bruce Fredrick Billson is to be investigated.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 4 September 2017:

Bruce Billson in Parliament. Photo: Andrew Meares

Former government minister Bruce Billson will be examined by a bipartisan committee to determine whether he acted in contempt of Parliament by taking undeclared payments from a business lobby group.

Mr Billson, who retired from Parliament at the July 2016 election after being dumped from the ministry when Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull took over as leader, announced in March last year he was taking up a position with the Franchise Council of Australia. However, the income from this new position was not declared on his parliamentary register. 

Since the failure to register the separate income was revealed, Liberal MPs have expressed surprise that the former small business minister began receiving his $75,000 salary from the industry group while serving as an MP and he has faced calls to donate the amount in question to charity.

Manager of opposition business Tony Burke, who sought the inquiry, said the committee would investigate if the dual employment raised "any issues that may constitute a contempt of the House or to any issues concerning the appropriate conduct of a member" regarding his responsibilities to voters.

MPs who fail to properly complete their register can be declared in contempt of Parliament, risking a fine of up to $5000 or imprisonment for up to six months. 

Speaker Tony Smith said the House of Representatives still had jurisdiction over former MPs for their actions while in office, as in the case of disgraced Labor politician Craig Thomson who was formally reprimanded in 2015 after leaving Parliament in 2013.

Permitting the referral, Mr Smith noted two possibly relevant matters of contempt in Parliament's procedural handbook: "corruption in the execution of a member's office" and "lobbying for reward or consideration"

On 7 March Billson informed the Registrar of Members’ Interests that he was now the director and a shareholder in a new private company, added a private vehicle to his list of assets, outlined hospitality received as an MP and ended what was the last registry update of his political career with the memorable line:
By 23 March 2016 while still MP for Dunkley Bruce Billson was announcing to the world (but not to the Registrar) that he was now Executive Chairman of the Franchise Council of Australiaa paid position which commenced on 9 March.

Billson retired from parliament at the July 2016 federal election still not having declared this chairmanship or the $75,000 annual salary that went with it to the Registrar of Members’ Interests.

Seventeen months later he is calling this glaring omission “an administrative failing on my behalf”.

Not the words I would use to describe his actions.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Australian Politics 2017: Greed Unlimited


A wealthy former merchant banker and Australian prime minister conservatively worth an estimated $200 million, whose annual parliamentary salary package is worth more than that of an American president, is caught with his greedy hand in the nation’s till……

Daily Telegraph, 1 September 2017:

PRIME Minister Malcolm Turnbull has been forced to pay back part of his travel expenses nine months after pocketing more than $1000 in allowances when he visited remote indigenous communities in South Australia.

Mr Turnbull will pay for the costs after The Daily Telegraph made inquiries about why the travel allowance had been claimed for accommodation that was provided free.

Finance Department expenditure reports show Mr Turnbull claimed $1130 in accommodation costs for two nights when visiting Umuwa and Scotdesco, in far northern South Australia in October 30 and October 31 last year.

But this newspaper can reveal the Umuwa accommodation was paid for by the South Australian government, not by Mr Turnbull. And the accommodation in Scotdesco costs just $60 per person.

When contacted on Monday, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet declined to comment, instead sending a request for an invoice to the South Australian government, despite the trip taking place nine months ago.

A spokesman for the SA State Development Department confirmed Mr Turnbull had “stayed in accommodation owned by the state government of South Australia at Umuwa on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands”.

Caught out Prime Minister Turnbull hurried to cover his cash grab.

“Following a request from Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet an invoice is being issued for the cost of the accommodation,” he said.

“The request for invoice was on Tuesday 29 August, 2017.”

It is understood that despite the claim of $565 for each night, the cost for accommodating four people in Umuwa, including Mr Turnbull, was $360.

This voter is not impressed by such petty personal greed, Malcolm Bligh Turnbull.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Members of Australian Parliament receive third pay rise in four years raising base salary to $203,020 per annum


The 226 members of the House of Representatives and Senate will receive a base salary which is almost six times higher than the June 2017 full-time minimum wage – commencing on 1 July 2017.

Excerpts from Remuneration Tribunal 2017 Review of Remuneration for Holders of Public Office Statement, 22 June 2017:

The Tribunal has decided to increase remuneration by 2 per cent for public offices in its jurisdiction, with effect from 1 July 2017…….


In conducting its annual review of remuneration, the Tribunal takes account of economic conditions in Australia, past and projected movements in remuneration in the private and public sectors (including the APS), as well as the outcomes of reviews of public offices completed by the Tribunal. In order to inform its conclusions the Tribunal draws upon authoritative external sources such as the published material available from the Government, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) and the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) as well as trends in public and private sector remuneration. It is obliged by its legislation also to consider the Annual Wage Reviews of the Fair Work Commission.

Adjustments arising from the Tribunal’s annual review generally apply to the broad spectrum of offices in the Tribunal’s determinative jurisdiction including the most senior offices in the public service and statutory agencies, certain government-owned businesses, Secretaries, numerous part-time offices and the federal judiciary, as well as parliamentarians. Ordinary annual adjustments in remuneration of this kind recognise the achievement of ongoing objectives and the steady evolution in responsibility that is characteristic of public administration.

The Tribunal considers it important that remuneration for offices in its jurisdiction be maintained at appropriate levels over the longer term to attract and retain people of the calibre required for these important high level offices. The Tribunal is conservative in its approach to annual increases and in this case is conscious of the Government’s policy of wage restraint for the APS and non- APS government agencies. Ideally, the Tribunal is concerned to avoid, in the future, any need for significant one-off increases to restore proper relativities and to recognise fully ongoing changes in work requirements…..

The Tribunal sets remuneration for a range of offices that sit at the forefront of the private/public sector ‘divide’. Heads of agencies, members of boards and technical/professional specialists often straddle roles between both sectors. Many of these office holders do not expect or require that monetary compensation be set at private sector levels.

Rather in the true sense of the phrase ‘public service’, office holders serve for the public good. This means that in setting remuneration the Tribunal has traditionally set rates below those of the private sector.

Nonetheless over the past year there has been a notable increase in submissions to the Tribunal seeking higher remuneration for offices and individual office holders based at least in part on private sector remuneration.

As well as achieving an appropriate balance in the assessment of both private and public sector wage movements, the Tribunal must make its assessment of wages and other economic considerations based not just on past experience but also on predictions of future movements. The Tribunal is also conscious of the Government’s policy of wage restraint applying to APS and non-APS agencies. Ultimately the Tribunal has decided to set its general increase at 2 per cent…..

This wage increase translates into the following figures.

The Australian, 22 June 2017:

The rise will push ordinary members of parliament up by just under $4000 to $203,020 per annum.
The Prime Minister will get a $10,350 pay rise from $517,504 a year to $527,854
Cabinet ministers, currently paid a base salary of $343,344, will get nearly $7000 extra and will now be paid $350,210 a year.
Shadow ministers, on $248,800 per year, will get bumped up to $253,776 a year.

MPs and senators had already been granted additional taxpayer-funded support staff six months ago.

The Australian, 20 December 2016:

Taxpayers will fork out an extra $35.8 million over the next four years for federal politicians to ­employ 33 additional staff, adding to more than 1500 people already employed by MPs.

The allocation will see the extra full-time positions divided ­between the Coalition, Labor, the Greens and crossbench MPs, and also provide for some existing roles to be reclassified, costing $9.1m annually from 2017-18.

The mid-year budget review says $35.8m will “allow parliamentarians to more effectively manage their workload and represent the interest of their constituents”.

The total number of personal staff employed by government MPs is 448, including 401 for the 30 ministers and 25 for the 12 parliamentary secretaries, who are called assistant ministers.

Eight staff work for government whips and a further 14 have other roles.

The opposition employs 101 personal staff; 37 are allocated to the Leader of the Opposition, and six to opposition whips. The Greens have 17 personal staff. Each of the 15 crossbench MPs and senators have been allocated an extra three staff. In addition, there are almost 1000 staffers working in electorate offices, with the 226 MPs and ­senators entitled to four workers each.

Department of Finance documents show the number of staff classified as senior advisers ­jumped from 61 in February last year to 101 last month. In the same ­period, the total staff in lower-paid positions fell by eight.

Government staff are paid ­between $48,000 annually for an entry-level electorate staffer to $245,000 for a senior adviser, plus allowances of up to $30,000 a year.

The staff have just signed a new enterprise bargaining agreement that locks in salary and allowance increases of 2 per cent a year for the next three years.


Wednesday, 22 February 2017

A university education and a highly paid job the road to home ownership in Australia for the masses?


The Turnbull Government’s tin ear was on full display in The Sydney Morning  Herald on 21 February 2017:

The Coalition MP tasked with tackling Australia's housing affordability problems has said a "highly paid job" is the "first step" to owning a home.

The federal Victorian MP Michael Sukkar, who is the Assistant Minister to the Treasurer and has been charged with finding solutions to the country's housing affordability woes, also pointed to his own experience in purchasing two properties by the age of 35 as an example to struggling homebuyers. 

"We're also enabling young people to get highly paid jobs which is the first step to buying a house, it's not the only answer but it's the first step," Mr Sukkar told Sky News on Monday night.

"I want to see young people like me, leave university, I was a terrible university student but I left university because the economy was so good, I got a great start and I was able to forge a career," he said.

The Liberal MP for Deakin since September 2013 and Assistant Minister to the Treasurer, 35 year-old Michael Sven Sukkar LLB, BComm (Deakin), LLM (Melb), who apparently walked straight into well-paying employment at PricewaterhouseCoopers after leaving university and eleven years later owns his own home in Blackburn and a residence in Canberra after selling a second investment property in Fitzroy.

Conveniently the Australian taxpayer is assisting Mr. Sukkar with the mortgage on the possibly negatively geared Canberra property by supplying him with $273.00 for every night he stays in his own residence while parliament is sitting – an est. $11,466 for the 2017 calendar year alone.

Even at a stretch, married to a professionally qualified wife with a business partnership in a multinational firm, Michael Sukkar’s economic progress though life is hardly typical of a couple seeking to buy their first home.

However, typically of a member of the Liberal Party he assumes almost everyone can be fortunate enough to have small business owners as parents, a good education and a well-paying job before securing a parliamentary seat with an excellent superannuation plan.

According to They Vote For You during his almost three and a half years in the Australian Parliament Michael Sukkar has voted for:


And voted against:


Monday, 9 January 2017

Australian Health Minister admits abusing her parliamentary entitlements


Sussan Ley admitted the error of her ways once she was found out, but then tries to restrict any investigation of her ministerial use of car and air travel allowances to only those trips to and from the Gold Coast area in Queensland.



I have spent the past 48 hours examining my travel records.

I travelled to Brisbane on 9 May 2015 to make a major announcement about the availability of new medicines at a specialist breast cancer clinic and to meet with patients in Brisbane and on the Gold Coast. As I had to be in Canberra on Sunday 10 May I decided to stay the night of 9 May on the Gold Coast rather than incur considerable extra expense by flying back to Albury and then to Canberra the following day. This travel is within the rules provided.

However, I have always sought to apply higher standards for myself in using valuable taxpayers’ funds.

While attending an auction was not the reason for my visit to Queensland or the Gold Coast, I completely understand this changed the context of the travel undertaken. The distinction between public and private business should be as clear as possible when dealing with taxpayers’ money.

I have spoken to the Prime Minister and he agrees that this claim does not meet the high standards he expects of Ministers. I apologise for the error of judgement.

Tomorrow I will ask the Department of Finance to invoice me for the costs for the car and travel allowance claimed on Saturday 9 May 2015, including the relevant penalty applied to erroneous claims.

My examination of my travel records has also brought to my attention two other claims for accommodation on the Gold Coast in 2014 and 2015 where I should have stayed and claimed in Brisbane, as well as a single one-way flight from Coolangatta to Canberra in June 2015.

I will also ask the Department of Finance to invoice me the costs of these claims, as well as the relevant penalty.

In the interests of total transparency, I will ask the department to review all my ministerial travel to the Gold Coast.

As a member of federal parliament for over fifteen years Sussan Ley well knew the rules regarding parliamentary entitlements. 

If Ms. Ley wishes to be fully transparent then all her travel claims since she first entered the ministry on 18 September 2013 should be audited.

* Undated but believed to be on or about 8 January 2017

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Counting the coins as we wait for the 45th Parliament to commence


Before Malcolm Turnbull (as prime minister of a government in the third and final year of its first term in office) called a double dissolution election, the last Dept. of Finance Australian Government General Government Sector Monthly Financial Statement due was for May 2016 and, this revealed an underlying cash balance for the 2015-16 financial year to 31 May 2016 which was in deficit to the tune of $34,860 million.

total government revenue - $360,209 million of which $340,866 million was taxation revenue
total expenses - $388,061 million leaving a shortfall of $27,852 million
public debt interest - $14,101 million
net government debt - $284,657 million.

The June figures are yet to be published and it will be a case of track the Dept. of Finance website for the next three years as the Liberal-Nationals Coalition fails yet again to reign in its own discretionary spending.

Meanwhile Prime Minister-elect Turnbull - in an election so close that by 18 July 2016 only 13 of 150 House of Representatives seats have been officially declared - held an evening of champagne and canapés with a who’s who of Liberal and National MPs and senators at The Lodge in Canberra on 17 July.

The food included Pialligo ­Estate’ smoked salmon on rye toasties with horseradish cream, Moroccan lamb rissoles with harissa yoghurt, vegetable samosa with mint relish, roast beef en croute with stilton cream and tomato chutney, Vietnamese prawns with chilli jam and chicken satays.

I sincerely hope that Mr. Turnbull personally paid for use of The Lodge that night and for all catering and security at this event, as he didn’t become the official tenant again until after the Governor-General swore him in on 19 July 2016.

Mr. Turnbull's reportedly in excess of $1 million donation to the Liberal election campaign may possibly have brought him government but it could never buy the allocation of taxpayer funds for his private victory party.

Monday, 13 June 2016

Australian Federal Election 2016: a rabble of rorters


So Liberal MPs politically profile their constituents on the back of the taxpayer dollar and, that money is paid on to a company which sends these dollars to the political arm of the Liberal Party of Australia.

And they wonder why their polling is so very ordinary?


You don't know it, but you might be one of the Liberal Party's largest donors. 

A company Liberal MPs direct taxpayer funds towards to keep tabs on voter behaviour is becoming a major source of income for the party, raising questions about whether taxpayers are indirectly footing the bill for donations.

Fairfax Media can reveal nearly all Liberal MPs pay a company, Parakeelia Pty Ltd, $2500 a year to use "Feedback" software, money understood to come from their taxpayer-funded office allowances.

Parakeelia is registered to the same inner-Canberra office building as the Liberals. The company's directors include the Liberal Party's federal director, Tony Nutt, and president, Richard Alston. It is registered with authorities as being associated with the party.

Last financial year, Parakeelia transferred $500,000 to the federal Liberal division, making it the party's second-biggest single source of funds. The year before it came in fourth with $400,000; before that $200,000.

But the Liberals would not say how much of the company's revenue began as taxpayer funding.

Some party figures question whether the party is profiting from public funding.

"What are the costs to them from running the software?," asked one former Liberal MP. "You'd have to say minimal. Our contributions per MP are very small, so we never really could know if they were turning a buck or not."

The last time this information was disclosed, a decade ago, half of Parakeelia's revenues came from MP offices. The balance was mostly money from the Liberal Party machine.

The software logs information about an MP's constituents. Every time a voter calls an office, or writes a letter to the local paper, electorate staff make a note about any information gleaned about their political views. Staff also proactively research community groups and businesses and add it to the files……

Parakeelia Pty Ltd declared to the Australian Electoral Commission that it directly gave the federal Liberal Party an estimated $550,392 - for an election campaign which gave us Tony Abbott as prime minister. 

The same associated entity will directly hand the federal Liberals at least $269,176 to try and keep Malcolm Turnbull in office.

Monday, 30 May 2016

Australian Federal Election 2016: oh the pain, it burns!


I’m sure there is more than one voter on a low income who is chortling about what went down in Week Three of the federal election campaign.

This has been the state of play for members of the Australian Parliament since 1999.

Excerpts from TR 1999/10 Taxation Ruling Income tax and fringe benefits tax: Members of Parliament – allowances, reimbursements, donations and gifts, benefits, deductions and recoupments:

10. Members commonly receive the following types of allowances, in addition to their Parliamentary ‘salaries’ (see paragraphs 42 to 45). Particular allowances may vary depending on the Parliament in which a Member serves.
• Committee allowance
• Daily expense allowance
• Electorate allowance
• Expense or entertainment allowance
• Opposition spokespersons’ allowance
• Postage allowance
• Printing and stationery allowance
• Private vehicle allowance/motor vehicle allowance
• Telephone allowance
• Travel allowance.
These allowances, like MPs and senators parliamentary salaries, are considered assessable income by the Australian Taxation Office.
Second property not used as a Member’s residence: A deduction is allowable for expenses of a non-capital nature, and for depreciation of plant, where the property is not properly regarded as a second residence. However, the deduction is limited to the extent to which the expenditure is incurred in respect of a property that is used by a Member for work-related travel purposes on overnight stays away from his or her residence, and the expenditure is not private or domestic in nature (paragraphs 328 to 336).

Second residence expenses: A deduction is not allowable for the costs of maintaining a property that is used as a second residence (paragraphs 337 to 343)……

These two sections of the ruling appear to allow parliamentarians to double-dip at the ordinary taxpayers expense – first using the overnight travel allowance to pay down the mortgage on a Canberra residence if it’s not owned outright and then claiming tax deductions including mortgage interest, rates, insurance and utilities on the same residence.

Then this cosy little arrangement became public knowledge…….

News.com.au, 22 May 2016:
TAXPAYERS are helping to pay the mortgage and the rent for federal MPs who are raking in $1000 a week to sleep in Canberra and then, on top of that, claiming a big tax deduction for rent, rates, electricity and mortgage.
In a little-known tax ruling, MPs who rent can also claim a tax deduction for a second residence including “lease payments; rent; interest on borrowings used for the acquisition of the property; rates; taxes; insurance; general maintenance of the building, plant and grounds’’.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, charged with cracking down on budget waste, is just one of the MPs double-dipping by claiming a $273-a-night travel allowance (which, bizarrely, is not regarded as taxable income) and scoring a tax deduction as well….
The rules state that an MP “may choose to rent or buy a property rather than stay in a hotel or other commercial establishment when travelling. A deduction is allowable for expenses, that are not of a capital, private or domestic nature, in respect of such a property where it is used by a Member for accommodation when he or she is undertaking work-related travel.
“Such expenses include: lease payments; rent; interest on borrowings used for the acquisition of the property; rates; taxes; insurance; general maintenance of the building, plant and grounds.’’

The Guardian, 22 May 2016:
The finance minister, Mathias Cormann, has defended politicians receiving both a $273 a night travel allowance and tax deductions for mortgages and rents for properties in Canberra.
Speaking on Insiders on Sunday, Cormann said the remuneration tribunal granted the travel allowance and the tax office allowed deductions for politicians’ accommodation expenses.
Reports have revealed that on top of the allowance, MPs who rent or buy a property to stay in during work-related travel can also claim tax deductions for rent, interest on borrowings used for the acquisition of the property, rates, taxes, insurance and general maintenance.
The first report indicates that some federal politicians may be under the impression that a travel allowance paid for a presumed expense was not taxable income.
Then came this painful revelation……
ABC News, 23 May 2016:
Tax Commissioner Chris Jordan stressed that members of Parliament had to abide by the same standards as everyone else.
"The rules are the same for every taxpayer, regardless of their occupation," Mr Jordan said in a statement.
"Any taxpayer who has had to travel overnight for work is entitled to deduct the costs of meals and accommodation under our tax laws.
"However, given that there are clear misunderstandings of how the ruling is applied, we will undertake to review the 1999 ruling to give greater clarity for all taxpayers on the treatment of allowances they may receive from their employer to cover the costs of work related travel."
The ATO said the returns of all taxpayers, including MPs were scrutinised, and that any taxpayer should not be claiming deductions for travel expenses unless they have declared the allowance as income in their tax returns.
In 1999, the ATO issued a ruling about how it assesses travel allowances and tax deductions for MPs.
That ruling will now be reviewed in light of the issue being thrust into the campaign spotlight.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Labor blots its copybook in Week 2 of the federal election campaign


Preselecting a 49 year-old candidate in West Australia who at nineteen assaulted a police officer could be seen as an unfortunate mistake easily rectified, but for this to be followed less than a week later by the discovery that one of Labor’s Victorian MPs seeking re-election had not declared an investment property for close to three years can only be called the first big blunder of the party’s federal election campaign.

To then find that the Member for Batman and Shadow Minister for Justice David Feeney is also one of those politicians who claims $271 a night while living in an apartment owned by a close family member – in this case his lawyer wife’s trust – only makes the situation worse.

This parliamentary entitlement claim places him is the same category as former treasurer Joe Hockey and current prime minister Malcolm Turnbull* and, is likely to alienate some voters in his electorate.


* Malcolm Turnbull’s last Summary of Parliamentary Expenditure show this multi-millionaire is still claiming the nightly allowance for living in a Canberra apartment owned by himself.