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Monday, May 11, 2009

Who knows what parliamentarians do with our money?

The three jurisdictions in Australia moving now on Freedom of Information reforms have shown no interest in extending the scope of legislation to parliament.The Federal and NSW governments haven't bothered to explain publicly why they rejected recommendations to this effect from the Australian Law Reform Commission and the NSW Ombudsman respectively. Maybe its a separation of powers, constitutional thing. But both could act to improve transparency particularly about the expenditure of public money by parliamentarians, by taking steps in Parliament to have the institution adopt rules requiring disclosure of payment of allowances and other expenditure on behalf of members. Neither government controls their upper house but I imagine the cross-benches would jump at the chance to get behind them on this.

Prompted by news from the UK over the weekend about latest developments there. Big, bad news for Prime Minister Brown acording to the Financial Times.

"The 646 MPs at Westminster are under growing pressure after the publication of receipts showing lavish and sometimes outlandish use of taxpayers’ money. The deluge began after one British newspaper, the Daily Telegraph, obtained details of all of the receipts for MPs’ expenses submitted over four years. After an unsuccessful battle waged by politicians against freedom of information campaigners, officials had been due to publish them in July.

The revelations have shown senior ministers and backbench politicians alike milking the system to their maximum advantage even if the claims all fall within the Commons rules. MPs were found to have charged for everything from eyeliner and baby food to a bag of manure and – in one case – a mole catcher. Others used the cash to build up property portfolios, often changing the definition of their “main” and “second” homes to maximise income."

The Daily Mail has plenty more detail.

Meanwhile our lot keep heads below the parapet, although a bit of digging brings up some news from time to time, today on Parliamentary Secretary Jan McLucas.

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