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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Malcolm Turnbull: Brits should learn about allowances from us

I'm sure it's never a slow day out there in Oppositionland, but Malcolm Turnbull also today sent this response to my article in New Matilda:

I read your piece and cannot agree. The allowances to Australian politicians are very transparent and independently determined. The travelling allowance for Canberra for example is a flat rate which everyone gets regardless of where they stay. There are no provisions for upgrading duck ponds, or buying flat screen TVs or any of the scandalous nonsense we have seen in the UK.

I think you will find the UK moves to a system like our own.

The Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP
Leader of the Opposition
Federal Member for Wentworth

To which I replied:

Dear Mr Turnbull,

Thank you for your response. There is no question that the allowances are independently determined and with a little digging you can find out what they are.The point is that how the allowances-electoral, travel, printing, communications, etc- are spent is not transparent. There are even questions- first raised eight years ago by the Auditor General and again in Estimates Committee in February this year- about whether some expenditures on behalf of parliamentarians by the Department of Finance and Deregulation (which spends $390 million running its support services for parliamentarians) are confirmed and signed off as properly incurred. No information is published on the web by Parliament or Finance (other than global amounts for some travel) about expenditure of allowances . Neither is the Register of Interests available in this way. None of the three departments that service parliament and pay some allowances-combined expenditure this year of $318 million- are covered by the Freedom of Information Act. Nor is this part of the Government's FOI Reform proposals.

All in all, I doubt the British have much to learn from us on this aspect of accountability and transparency.

Peter Timmins

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