Sussan Ley: Are harsher restrictions necessary for Politician Privileges?
It was confirmed last week that Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley will stand aside pending an investigation into the numerous travel claims made to the Gold Coast over the past two years.
ABC News reported that Ms Ley bought a $795,000 apartment on the Gold Coast on “impulse” while travelling with her husband at the taxpayers’ expense. It was also reported that Ms Ley claimed travel costs to the Gold Coast for New Year’s Eve celebrations two years in a row.
Prime Minister Turnbull commented on the incident, stating that, “Australian’s expect the Government to deal with these serious matters very thoroughly and in accordance with the Statement of Ministerial Statistics.” He further stated that he expected “the highest standards” from his ministers in “all aspects of their conduct, and especially the expenditure of public money.”
This is not the first time that the standards in which Parliamentary leaders must be held has been called in to question. Former Speaker Bronwyn Bishop resigned in August of 2015 due to public backlash caused by her spending more than $5,000.00 on a flight from Melbourne to Geelong, a drive that would have taken only two hours.
Under the Parliamentary Entitlements Act 1990, all politicians have their travel within Australia covered if they are on Parliamentary or electorate business. Politicians are also entitled to a travel allowance for overnight stays with varying rates for different positions and locations. Under this act, politicians are also able to claim the cost of travel for their spouse, if it is in Australia and for official purposes. Many of these provisions have been called in to question over the last few years.
In particular, the public are calling for a revaluation and further restrictions being put in place with regards to provisions that allow politicians to fly family member’s interstate for holidays while on parliamentary business. Whilst this provision is understandable and beneficial, it is also a service that could potentially be abused. Particular criticism came after Tony Burke charged taxpayers $8,656 to fly his family from Sydney to Central Australia for a 4 day trip.
This latest scandal has led to the call for more restriction to be put on the privileges that our politicians are entitled to. They should be held to a higher standard, and public opinion indicates that the actions of Ms Ley are unacceptable and should not be tolerated.