Travel rorts

I blogged a couple of days ago in defence of the reasonableness of MPs’ superannuation arrangements. I deliberately omitted any reference to the other most frequently mentioned alleged politicians’ rort: overseas “junkets” at taxpayers’ expense. Coincidentally, Alan Ramsey has an article in today’s SMH about just that subject.

It gives me an opportunity to put on the record my view that, unlike the existing politicians’ superannuation scheme, many aspects of politicians’ travel are utterly indefensible. I’m not arguing that Ministers never need to travel overseas (or interstate); manifestly they sometimes do. However, the expense, opulence, frequency and duration of such trips is way over the top. Just look at some of the figures quoted in Ramsey’s article: John Howard’s overseas travel bill last year (mostly with Janette also travelling at taxpayer expense) was more than $3 million. A single 2 week trip to Europe cost over $1 million. Nice work if you can get it. No wonder he refuses to retire.

I suspect that many of these trips don’t truthfully need to take place at all. In these days of the Internet and video conferencing, it would often be much cheaper, equally effective and much more efficient in terms of avoiding disruption to mormal departmental administration to make use of such technologies and stay at home. As for politicians’ extraordinary levels of interstate travel, much of it is actually for thinly-disguised party political electioneering purposes, and should be financed by the parties themselves rather than the taxpayer. Of course, neither major party is ever going to blow the whistle on the other on these rorts, because they all have their fingers in the bickie tin and have a mutual interest in preserving the goose that lays the golden egg. Trouble is that the geese are you and me.

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

I agree in principle, but I think Ramsey’s focus on Howard was misplaced. The expectation is that the PM should travel and to a significant extent we’re captive to an international system that requires that he do so. You can argue about the quantum, and bicker over the costings – it always plays a seductive tune in the electorate – but there’s no reasonable counter to the fundamental requirement.

For all the wrong reasons no doubt, a significant amount of our national prestige is incontrovertibly linked to perceptions of the national leadership moving and shaking in fora of the not-so-good but undeniably great; particularly in respect of visits to what used to be the capitals of the Great Powers. A wife is de rigeur on these occasions. Otherwise your hosts are likely to believe that you’re a confirmed bachelor.

Kevin Rudd has been behaving like some autocratic Flight Centre intinerary compiler in respect of Howard and Downer for months. “He must go here! He must go there” His insistence that Downer should rush immediately to Pyongyang last week was classic. Downer, whose physique is not unlike the Great Leader’s, would have been unlikely to have fallen for the potential photo-op downside in that.

It’s the ‘international study tour in the winter recess’ rort that irritates me, and both federal and state pollies are in it up to their collective necks.

The NSW shadow corrective services minister has just embarked on a 6 week trawl through both hemispheres concluding with a week in Fiji – a renowned centre of advanced penitentiary practice.

Accompanied by wife and kids, he will no doubt return with a whole range of fascinating insights into resort life in the Nadi area.

When cornered by the media in Sydney, pre-departure, he bleated piteously about his honourable intent and committed to providing everyone with a full Report on his return. I felt much better. I’m sure he’s already got the best websites for that purpose, sorted.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Reading that post again, I must take credit for a truly magnificently mangled mixed metaphor. Can you fit a goose into a biscuit tin, I wonder? I guess it would have to be a very large biscuit tin or a very small goose, certainly not a generously grain-fed one.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

I took your meaning to be that the bickie tin was inside the goose that they were royally shafting us with. It was all very clear to me.

Homer Paxton
Homer Paxton
2022 years ago

I have always been amazed at the sheer coincidence of when Canberra pollies take study tours and the winter recess break!

woodsy
woodsy
2022 years ago

You people down south can carp and whinge about your pollies heading north for the winter break – we’ve got to put up with them polluting our pristine environment. Like you Homer I’m amazed that the only time some one needs a look at Aborigine outstations, the defence posts in the north (and any other excuse) is during the dry. Just another example of power corrupting.

cs
cs
2022 years ago

And I’m not sure whistles ever work all that well in stopping fingers getting on geese laying eggs in biscuit tins.