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Monday, August 13, 2012

Water and wine, trans tasman comparisons of disclosure of ministerial expenses

Another area of expenditure deeply buried here in the various accounts of Federal and state government agencies or ministers' offices and rarely sees the light of day. Nothing publicly that I'm aware of like New Zealand where credit card transactions for ministers and staff are published in a single quarterly publication on-line, together with supporting documentation for purchases.

Ministers McCully and Carr
NZ blogger No Right Turn finds the prospect of disclosure seems to impact behaviour... with the occassional exception. So might we, if we tried it, even if our Foreign Minister Bob Carr, a teetotaller, simply watches what he spends on mineral water:
"I've spent the last hour or so going through the credit card statements, and I'm impressed. The picture that emerges is one of Ministers spending money reasonably and appropriately. There's a few amusing bits - Steven Joyce's lonely snickers bar habit (is he not satisfied?) - but very little really outrageous. Compare this with the pattern of a few years ago when these releases started, and it seems that Ministerial abuse of expenses has decreased significantly. Which both shows the value of such proactive releases, and builds trust in government. The exception, of course, continues to be (Foreign Minister) Murray McCully. He seems incapable of checking into a hotel room without several substantial charges marked "beverage" appearing on the bill (note: this is not drinks with dinner, it is drinks alone). Now, he may have a $50 a night coffee habit. But it reads like he's spending a lot of time in hotel bars drinking our money. Then of course there's the big dinner habit - this time round, an NZ$1200 dinner for 7 in Bali, including NZ$600 for four bottles of wine (and its Australian wine, at that). He hasn't beaten his NZ$233 record for a single bottle, but the average price of those is still well beyond what is reasonable, even given his role.
Proactive release of expenses relies on Ministers having a sense of shame to improve behaviour. But McCully doesn't. He's an uncorrectable recidivist, and its time we dispensed with his services."


  1. Stephen10:15 am

    This seems like a no brainer. Surely if the credit cards are paid for by public money, we should have the right to see what they're using it for! Especially if it keeps the vast majority of Ministers honest

  2. Stephen10:16 am

    And by that I mean, why doesn't Australia do the same thing? :)

  3. Anonymous9:45 am

    I would extend this to any public expenditure particularly use of credit cards, with details routinely published. This would also discourage fraud within the APS. It happens. It would also reduce burden of FOI sections if much of the information is already publicly available.