EDITORIAL: Time to cut back on unreasonable expenses

Bowman MP Andrew Laming.

Bowman MP Andrew Laming.

FEDERAL government documents have revealed that Bowman MP Andrew Laming has charged taxpayers more than $13,500 to take his wife and daughters on a trip to the Northern Territory and Western Australia while he investigated indigenous affairs.

Mr Laming did nothing illegal in organising the trip for himself and family but it is not a good look when MPs use the public purse in this way.

Family travel is allowed for MPs but more than half of them do not avail themselves of this generous option. The idea is that MPs, many of whom spend considerable time away from their families, are able to spend at least some time with those closest to them.

Any such remuneration is a subjective and difficult issue. Though we like to knock our representatives, being in politics is a tough job and there is no doubting how much time the average politician devotes to their work, especially those who hold cabinet posts.

So it seems only fair that spouses should occasionally be allowed to accompany MPs at taxpayers’ cost. After all, they bear a substantial load when their partner is representing community interests and it’s not hard to imagine that the odd trip would help their union which in turn would be a positive thing for the community.

But the public view of politicians is soured when trips like that taken by Mr Laming and his family occur.

Of course there have been many others. Who would forget former speaker Bronwyn Bishop’s helicopter rides to Liberal Party fundraising events or WA MP Steve Irons who charged taxpayers to fly to his own wedding in Melbourne? He also charged us to fly to a golf tournament to learn about “golf tourism opportunities”.

No business allows staff to use expenses in such a way, perhaps with the exception of a handful of senior executives.

In politics those with a tin ear to public concerns might consider it a talent to come up with a work-related event to justify a travel claim but the public does not.

Indeed, getting a good overseas trip when one nears the end of a political career is referred to as a lap of honour. It is one of the reasons why politicians are held in such poor regard. It is also one of the reasons why smaller parties like One Nation have made such ground on the major parties.

It’s time such entitlements were cut back because as MP Barnaby Joyce might say, they certainly do not pass the pub test.