Australian Members of Parliament are way behind the rest of the world when it comes to colourful expense claims.
The UK has set the standard with claims for moat cleaning, building a duck house, a garlic peeler for the kitchen, roof repairs, changing light bulbs, fixing toilet seats, buying manure, renting porn videos and removing wisteria from a chimney.
Australia’s own travel expense scandal is grey by comparison, involving issues such as whether attending weddings, the rugby, going on a wine tour or inspecting a rental property are really part of official duties or not.
Up to now there’s been no comeback if an expense claim error was made, just pay it back. Now the new federal government is setting up rules which will see MPs fined 25 per cent of the value of a claim if it doesn’t fit the guidelines.
They must also make this declaration: “I declare that this travel was undertaken in my capacity as an elected representative and I acknowledge that a financial loading will be applied if subsequent adjustment to this travel claim is required.”
MPs also risk being named and shamed in Parliament if they don’t provide answers to qustions about their expenses.
Business Insider took a look at what MPs can claim and the costs to the community.
The Department of Finance, according to budget papers and regular reports, deals with claims totalling more than $100 million a year from parliamentarians.
The chart above is a breakdown on the claims. Total travel comes to just 16 per cent including domestic and international and the cost of travelling family members.
The cost of running MP offices, included new fit outs, is the big one.
However, the total cost of MP entitlements for the financial year ended June 2013 was more than $466 million, according to the Department of Finance. See the budget portfolio statement on page 49.
This financial year the costs are budgeted for more than $510 million.
That’s about $2.1 million per MP. And that’s before they take a salary which is currently at a base of $195,130 plus superannuation of about 11.5 per cent.
Additional responsibilities, such as being a minister, attract more pay. Then there’s electoral allowances of between $32,000 and $46,000 a year depending on where the electorate is.
Compare that to the US, where House of Representatives Members get expense allowances $1.3 million to $1.9 million a year depending on where their electorates are. Senators get $2.9 million to $4.5 million.
The one expense federal MPs in Australia are all entitled to is a daily allowance when travelling. Trips to Darwin attract the biggest at $402 per night.
Staying in Canberra, which you would expect they all do to attend parliament, is a flat $260 a night no matter where they stay. Almost no questions asked.
The difference between non-commercial and commercial is whether they stay in a hotel or bunk down at a friend’s house.
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