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Monday, April 23, 2012

Slipper saga reminds of lack of transparency concerning payments to parliamentarians

7 News
Plenty to read about House of Representatives Speaker Peter Slipper, some courtesy of documents obtained under Freedom of Information by News Limited publications from the Department of Finance and Deregulation, which manages most entitlement payments to members and senators.

But details of payments and related information concerning use of entitlements by Mr Slipper for which the parliament itself is responsible haven't featured so far. That sort of information about parliamentarians isn't available. See this post from last November about gaps in the system of accountability and transparency and recommendations for change, yet to be acted upon by parliament or the government, that have been floating around for years.

Long before it became an issue attracting national attention, Bill Hoffman at the Sunshine Coast Daily was on the Peter Slipper expense case. In March he detailed his unsuccessful effort to access information about payments by the parliament while Mr Slipper was Deputy Speaker last year.

Hoffman's article included this response from House of Representatives Serjeant-at-Arms Robyn McClelland which referred for the first time to future consideration of a public reporting regime for such payments, On past form don't expect to hear much from parliamentarians about the subject, or prompt action on much-needed improvements to the system:
Dear Mr Hoffman,
I refer to previous emails. The department has considered your request.
We have not previously had a request to our knowledge for % (sic) release of details of expenditure for services provided to individual members. Such details have not been released previously and we do not propose to make the details that you have requested available to you at this time. We will consider a public reporting regime involving publication of expenditure details. Any development of a reporting regime will involve considering the information available, developing a consistent approach across the parliamentary departments, and consultation with members. We will write to inform you if the information becomes publicly available.

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