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.