Pardon me, Canberra, your hypocrisy is showing

Pardon me, Canberra, your hypocrisy is showing, by Maurice Newman.

Take our jetsetting Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop. She claimed $1.2m in expenses last year, including a trip to Sydney for a film premiere and a day at the polo. She charged taxpayers $7000 for four trips to Adelaide that coincided with her older sister’s birthdays. The Herald Sun also found eight occasions when official business took her to the same city her beloved Eagles were playing away games. Nothing to see there.

Nor when Labor frontbencher Tony Burke was forced to declare two undisclosed separate stays worth thousands of dollars at Eddie Obeid’s luxury Perisher ski lodge in 2004 to 2006. Or when Burke took his family on a taxpayer-funded business class trip to Uluru during the 2012 school holidays, or used a family reunion entitlement to take four family members from Ballina back to Sydney during the 2010 school holidays. To be fair, he did repay $94 claimed as travel expenses to attend a Robbie Williams concert.

In a seven-year period, Burke claimed more than $4.6m, or almost $60,000 a month in expenses. He is now manager of opposition business. Go figure.

But even this “anything goes” culture has limits. When Labor senator Sam Dastyari allowed a Chinese government-linked company to pay off a $1600 travel debt, give him two bottles of Grange worth $1400 (disclosed as “two bottles of wine”) and meet a $40,000 legal bill, the obvious conflict finally became too much for him to remain on the frontbench and then in the Senate. That’s how low the bar is. No wonder Donald Trump’s “drain the swamp” resonates so strongly with the electorate.

If companies gave false profit guidance the way governments promise a return to budget surplus, boards and management would face serious Australian Securities & Investments Commissions charges. If a business claimed it could deliver a new broadband network for $26 billion when the ultimate cost was about three times that, then those responsible would be sued for negligence. But not in politics. Politicians take big bets using other people’s money. They take credit for successes while taxpayers underwrite their mistakes. This is a bad deal for taxpayers. …

It’s the risk we run when our parliament consists of careerists whose real-world experience is limited to being a political staff member or a trade union official. It’s an unpredictable mix of ambition and dangerous ideology. It highlights a crisis in governance and a crying need to widen the gene pool of our elected representatives. What was once a noble pursuit of public service has being corrupted by mercenaries. If liberties have to be taken, the ends justify the means.

Political parties may compete for the spoils of office, but ideologically their differences are blurred, and when push comes to shove they have demonstrated where their loyalties really lie. And it’s not with the Australian people.