Pollies’ travel expenses a grey area
ACCUSATIONS by politicians of travel rorts among politicians are wearying a public well aware of the utter hypocrisy that so often accompanies the claims.
The Queensland Labor Government has demanded an independent probe into opposition leaders Deb Frecklington and Tim Mander and their role in spending $27,000 on a trip by MPs to Sydney in 2018 for a get-together with fellow LNP state MPs.
Apparently Ministerial Services has looked into a $11 charge incorporated in the bill, following a request by the Opposition Leader for a king-size bed at the Sofitel Wentworth Hotel.
That the public know about all this via The Courier-Mail is right and proper, and part of the media's role in scrutinising the expenditure of taxpayer dollars.
But three decades after former Queensland National Party cabinet minister Leisha Harvey did a five-month stint behind bars for (among other things) treating her husband to a birthday trip to the Adelaide Grand Prix on the government credit card, the issue of who picks up the bill for itinerant politicians seems more opaque than it was before the Fitzgerald inquiry, while the allegations of wrongdoing appear to be spiralling.
In 2018 senior Labor MPs spent $80,000 on Gold Coast hotel rooms so they could attend Commonwealth Games ceremonies, a bill Frecklington then called "obscene''.
In 2019 it was reported three senior Queensland (unelected) public servants spent $107,000 on a trip across the US.
In 2017 retired Queensland MPs and family members claimed over $270,000 in taxpayer-funded trips.
We keep hearing about travel expenditure, yet most of the Queensland electorate is sophisticated enough to understand politics require travel, and don't begrudge travel expenditure provides it is within the "guidelines''.
Even fewer Queensland voters would suggest senior public servants trying to drum up business for Queensland on international trips (which often can be rather tedious) are engaging is some sort of rort for personal gain.
Yet the "guidelines'' on travel across government - legislative, executive and even judicial - appear to be constantly open to interpretation, requiring regular referrals to third parties to determine what is appropriate and what isn't.
Like most things in politics, it's the perception rather than the reality of wrongdoing that matters most, and a perception of wrongdoing is often swiftly established by merely making the accusation while the actual outcome decided weeks later is forgotten about.
Both sides of politics often use the "travel rort'' allegation when they have run short of more worthy ammunition to fire.
It's tiresome, and the public is getting weary of it.
Surely we could establish a simple set of rules which are crystal clear, and rarely in need of clarification.
And surely those rules could cover the legitimacy (or not) of an extra $11 for a king-size bed.