Shortly after Prime Minister Tony Abbott warned MPs that no one will “get away with exploiting the rules,” federal MPs Christopher Pyne and Anthony Albanese stood by their right to use taxpayers’ money to pay for their children’s business class flight to the capital to watch their parents in parliament.
Following revelations about former Speaker of the House Bronwyn Bishop, Mr Abbott told Sydney talkback radio station 2SM they banned “politicians travelling overseas first class” and drastically limited “family travel inside Australia and overseas,” as well as immediate family employment. A few days later, federal MPs Christopher Pyne and Anthony Albanese defended the use of taxpayers’ money to pay for politicians’ children to fly business class to the country’s capital to watch their parents in parliament during an episode of Channel Nine’s Today. The two joined forces and told presenter Karl Stefanovic there is nothing “unfair” about politicians’ children flying business class to come to Canberra to see their parents.
When Stefanovic tried to explain that taxpayers should not pay the bill to fly federal MPs’ children business class instead of economy, Pyne insisted the entitlement rules were not breached. The politician spent over $7,000 AUD to fly his four children from Adelaide to Canberra in business class to see their father on the opening day of parliament two years ago as a cabinet minister and Leader of the House. Pyne told the presenter he does not see this as excessive and claimed this is not “an unfair thing to do –whether they fly business or economy.”
The usually combatant opponents agreed family should be present during this type of events. Pyne continued to defend his position and said that after 22 and a half years in parliament, if his children come to Canberra to see him during important moments “that is entirely justifiable.”
The report came after news broke that opposition frontbencher Tony Burke had claimed $9,000 AUD from the taxpayer for business class plane tickets for a family trip to Uluru. Burke said the travel was within the rules, but “beyond community expectations.” Meanwhile, Pyne defended the Labor frontbencher and criticised recent scrutiny over MPs’ use of entitlements as a “witch-hunt.”
The Prime Minister has defended politicians’ use of public money to travel to and from party fundraisers, telling Macquarie Radio that using government-funded commonwealth cars for fundraisers should not be totally out of the question. According to parliamentary guidelines, MPs should not use comcars for anything other than official parliamentary or committee business.
Mr Abbott claimed that even though politicians must be able to travel to stay in touch with the general community, their expenses should be “responsibly managed […] prudent and if possible frugal.”
The review of the entitlements system will report back to the government by early 2016.