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Monday, October 04, 2010

Finance calls for action on parliamentary entitlements reform

The Finance Red book briefs also contain material on parliamentary entitlements, the need for action on the  report of a review that former Special Minister Ludwig sat on since receiving it in April, and to sort out what is to be done on the related issue of government agreement to establish the position of parliamentary integrity commmisioner with a role to report on such matters. Finance says it has deferred action on two Freedom of Information applications for the review report until a government response. 

While I've mentioned (often) the $140 million plus in allocations to the Parliament that go under the freedom of information radar, an issue crying out for attention since action was recommended by the Australian Law Reform Commission in 1995, Finance says there is a total of $373 million in this year's budget for parliamentarian's entitlements. The Herald Sun has done the sums-$1.65 million per head for our 226 federal politicians.

The Department, in bringing to the Minister's attention that he has various powers to deal with matters concerning entitlements including investigation of misuse under a 2000 protocol (that may have been tabled in parliament but it is otherwise not published anywhere to my knowledge), advises "the entitlements framework is complex." Part of the problem is administration is split between Finance and the parliament itself. When it comes to accountability and transparency the framework lacks coherence, and fails first principles as some parliamentarians refuse to even certify that expenditure has been properly incurred.

Because of the lack of transparency we'll just have to take Laura Tingle writing in the Australian Financial Review on Friday about the first week of parliament at her word (emphasis added)
 "Let's face it: neither major party wants a general election before June 30 next year for the reason that they've all used up their MPs" allowances, which are shamelessly used to help finance election campaigns and don't get a top-up until next financial year."
Let's hope out of this that simplification and transparency including something along the lines of a single site monthly online publication of details of all payments and expenditure are the hallmarks of reformPutting it up and making it searchable by member along the lines of this Scottish Parliament system would be a step in the right direction.

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