On an uncharacteristically warm winter afternoon in Canberra today, the Prime Minister finally emerged from a self-imposed media black out to face the press over the growing travel entitlements scandal engulfing his government.
After announcing that the Speaker of the House, Bronwyn Bishop will resign, Abbott fielded a dozen questions from journalists. It was all over in a matter of minutes.
Following is a press release issued by the Prime Minister’s office, along with a New Matilda translation for those needing assistance to read between the lines.
PRIME MINISTER: The rules governing the parliamentary entitlements system need reform.
TRANSLATION: We got caught diddling the books.
PM: Soon after taking office, this Government restricted access to family travel, stopped Members and Senators employing immediate family members and ended first class overseas travel. We also supported restoring the power of the Remuneration Tribunal to determine base salary.
TRANSLATION: Soon after taking office, we became embroiled in yet another travel entitlements scandal. We did the bare minimum to give the appearance that things had changed, but Bronwyn Bishop’s rather extravagant tastes have helped focus attention on the fact that the scandal was never really resolved, and indeed appears to be getting worse.
PM: Despite this, some parliamentary travel has been inside entitlement but outside community expectations.
TRANSLATION: Despite this, some parliamentary travel has been inside entitlements but still obviously quite corrupt.
PM: The rules lack clarity and lack transparency.
TRANSLATION: It’s not my fault the rules were designed to deliberately lack clarity and transparency, but this is obviously not going to wash anymore, particularly not after Joe Hockey declared an end to the age of entitlement.
PM: We need a system that is simple, effective and clear.
TRANSLATION: We need a system that appears to be more simple, effective and clear.
PM: We need a system that more independently sets and monitors parliamentary entitlements, working with the Department of Finance and the independent Remuneration Tribunal.
TRANSLATION: We need to end this crisis before parliament returns.
PM: We need a system that enables parliamentarians, their staff, and the public, to operate inside the rules with confidence and for those rules to meet the expectations of the community.
TRANSLATION: I threw ‘the public’ in there as a distraction… obviously, they have nothing to do with this other than footing the bill.
PM: We need a system that supports the work and activities of current day politicians, from diverse electorates, and helps them to serve their constituencies, parties and the Parliament.
TRANSLATION: I better wrap this up shortly, I'm missing the footy.
PM: The Government has asked former Secretary of the Department of Finance, Mr David Tune AO PSM, and Chair of the Remuneration Tribunal, Mr John Conde AO, to co-chair a committee to examine how best to deliver a more independent system.
TRANSLATION: This should buy us a bit of time.
PM: This committee starts with a blank sheet of paper to provide options on a system that is truly independent.
TRANSLATION: We’re in an awful lot of shit.
PM: It will report to the Government in the first half of next year.
TRANSLATION: I’d better call an early election.
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