The resignation of Regional Development and Major Events Minister Ian MacDonald followed reports by Linton Besser of the Sydney Morning Herald about $30000 in flight upgrades that were not declared on the Pecuniary Interest Register, and the final straw, courtesy of documents released to the Opposition in response to a Freedom of Information application, that the taxpayer, not as MacDonald claimed, himself, who paid $2800 for an economy airfare to Dubai in 2008. That trip took place before ministers were instructed last year to publish details about their overseas travel, the subject of this recent reminder from Premier Keneally:
Already, Ministers proactively release certain information on the Internet, including copies of all of their media releases (see M2008-18 (Availability of Ministers’ media release on NSW Government Agency Websites)) and (see M2009-10 (Release of Overseas Travel Information).
The whole area of entitlements and use of taxpayers money by ministers and members of parliament is still unacceptably opaque here. When UK Treasury Chief Secretary David Laws resigned recently over a kerfuffle about allowance payments, anyone interested could check The Green Book, the House of Commons Guide to Members Allowances to see the rules and where Laws went astray. But when questions were raised in NSW about flight upgrades and whether they should be publicly declared, the Premier said it was a grey area, journalists were able to quote from the handbook and advice was sought. But good luck to anyone trying to find Parliament's guidance to members on entitlements on the internet- I can't find a sign of it on NSW Parliament's website. The Register of Members Pecuniary Interests isn't on the web either. Imre Saluzinsky in The Australian said the latest edition available for inspection is 2008-2009!