Sometimes voters say it best. As details of Australian parliamentary speaker Bronwyn Bishop’s expenses continue to emerge in the wake of spending $5000 on a helicopter, they’ve been some funny memes and increased scrutiny of the taxpayer-funded perks of political office.
Les Anderson of Woodend had a letter in Melbourne’s Age newspaper that shows he has a long memory when it comes to helicopter use.
2015 marks 50 years since Liberal PM Robert Menzies committed Australian troops to the Vietnam war amid local concerns about Indonesia, believing American military might would come in handy down the track. National service was introduced for 20-year-old men the year prior and then, for the first time in Australian history, the government changed the law to make conscripts serve overseas, leading to vocal and substantial civil protest.
Anderson’s letter is devastatingly succinct:
The last time I took a helicopter to a Liberal Party function was during the Vietnam War.
Les Anderson, Woodend
As a side note, in 1965, before he was succeeded by Malcolm Fraser in 1966, Dr Jim Forbes was the Minister for the Army. The former MP for Barker in South Australia, who retired from politics in 1975, made headlines four years ago, aged 87, when details emerged about 29 flights he’d taken in the first six months of 2011 costing taxpayers $16,000 as part of the generous Gold Pass scheme for retired MPs.
Adelaide’s The Advertiser had details on former speaker and Nationals leader Ian Sinclair’s love of taxpayer-funded travel that made Bronwyn Bishop’s bills look frugal. (Bishop was once defence minister too).
Here’s what paper said about Sinclair, at the same time the Forbes spending was revealed:
Former Speaker Ian Sinclair has taken more than 700 flights, costing more than $250,000, since he retired in 1998. He cost taxpayers $14,394 for 40 flights in the first six months of this year. It included four return trips for himself and a family member to Lord Howe Island where he has a holiday cottage.
The uncapped Gold Pass scheme was costing taxpayers more than $1.5 million annually as ex-pollies from all sides jetted about the country. The former Labor government closed the scheme for new MPs in 2011 and cut the number of annual return trips from 25 to 10.
When the Abbott government moved to kill off the entitlement completely in the 2014 Budget, a number of Coalition MPs raised concerns about the end of the perk.
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