In a departure from the Australian parliamentary convention of gorging on as much taxpayer funds as possible and then doing everything in your power to hide it – also known as the ‘Bronnie standard’ – Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon has begun publishing her monthly travel entitlements online.
Rhiannon, who is the Greens’ democracy spokesperson, has already published her July and August 2015 travel and has promised to continue to do so going forward.
The documents show Rhiannon spends just over $2,000 a month on travel, and, surprisingly, she flies economy class, like the rest of us.
Interestingly, Rhiannon is not the first politician to break ranks. That honour belongs to Mal Brough, the new Special Minister of State currently who is currently under investigation by the Australian Federal Police for his role in ‘Ashbygate’.
Brough has been publishing his travel allowance online for sometime, and the figures date back to 2013.
Despite Brough’s big spending during his time in the Aboriginal affairs portfolio within the Howard government – including $100,000 pinched out of an NT Aboriginal mining royalties account which he splashed around in his own Queensland electorate of Longman – Brough’s travel allowance as the Member for Fisher reveals a humble traveller, with surprisingly low expenses.
In 2014, for example, Brough racked up just over $10,000 in travel expenses, plus an additional $6,000 for his spouse.
That said, unlike Rhiannon, Brough does occasionally travel business class on longer trips, although to his and Rhiannon’s credit, both are entitled to travel business class at any time. Brough also occasionally flies with budget airlines Jetstar and Tiger.
In a written statement, Rhiannon called on other politicians to follow suit.
“MPs are elected to work for the public good and the public have a right to know how MPs use the hundreds of thousands of dollars of public money to undertake that work,” Rhiannon said.
“In the absence of legislation requiring Australian MPs to publicly disclose their travel allowance use in close to real time, I am putting the information on my website and, and I hope that other MPs will follow.
“I have long advocated that our parliament replicate the user friendly system in the Scottish parliament that allows the public to quickly find how much MPs spend on accommodation, travel, staff and everything covered by allowances.
“The need to reform how MPs report on the use of their allowances is even more urgent after the recent Choppergate scandal.
“The misuse of allowances damages public confidence in our democratic institutions. Greater public scrutiny should be applied to how MPs spend public money.”