The federal government has strengthened the rules governing parliamentarians’ expenses.
The Special Minister of State, Senator Michael Ronaldson, has announced that from January 1, 2014 MPs whose travel claims need adjustment will pay a 25% penalty on top of the adjustment. Mandatory training will be provided to parliamentarians and their staff if more than one claim needs adjustment within a financial year.
The government has tightened rules on travel entitlements for members’ families. It has also stipulated that overseas travel may not be taken first class. Members’ names may also be tabled in parliament if they do no “substantially comply” within a reasonable time with requests for further information.
The government will also ban MPs from employing relatives in their electorate offices. Those who currently do so have until January 1 to make alternative arrangements.
The changes have been announced just days before the new parliament meets for the first time. They follow several weeks of revelations about claims by MPs. Prime Minister Tony Abbott has repaid over $1,700 in travel and accommodation expenses he claimed for attending the weddings of Sophie Mirabella and Peter Slipper in 2006.
Adam Bandt, acting leader of the Australian Greens, said the government was only acting under pressure and its changes were the “bare minimum”. He called for an Integrity Commissioner and a parliamentary “entitlements adviser”.
Statement from the Special Minister of State, Senator Michael Ronaldson.
STRENGTHENING THE RULES GOVERNING PARLIAMENTARIANS’ BUSINESS EXPENSES
Direct contact between citizens and their elected representatives is an important part of our democracy.
The system of funding the work costs of members and senators in carrying out their responsibilities is complicated by the fact that there is no set job description for the role of a parliamentarian. As independent assessments show, a parliamentarian’s day is routinely long, busy and varied.