Reform MP expense entitlements: Bowen

Federal Labor frontbencher Chris Bowen says the opposition will look sympathetically at sensible changes to the system governing the expense entitlements of parliamentarians.


West Australian Liberal backbencher Don Randall is the latest MP under scrutiny after claiming $5000 in travel expenses for a trip to Cairns for “electorate business,” when he was taking possession of an investment property in Queensland.

The entitlements row has engulfed both sides of politics with six members of the government front bench, including the prime minister, repaying travel allowance claims for attending weddings.

“We’re seeing a pattern of behaviour here,” Mr Bowen told ABC radio on Thursday.

The current situation did not pass the “common sense test” and Labor would support an independent inquiry into the system.

“If the government wants to put forward sensible changes, guidelines for less grey areas, we would look at that sympathetically.”

Changes to the rules will not eliminate the “grey areas”, Liberal MP Kelly O’Dwyer says.

“There are always matters of judgment around the edges and it will always be thus, no matter what rules you put into place,” she told Sky News.

Ms O’Dwyer described as “successful” the current system of entitlements provided parliamentarians acted within the rules and consulted with the finance department when uncertain about eligibility.

Labor backbencher Ed Husic said the Australian people would find it difficult to balance the government’s system of cuts to grants and funding while “not making the right choices” when it came to travel entitlements.

Independent senator Nick Xenophon says Mr Randall should provide a statement justifying his travel to Cairns.

If the MP visited an investment property during the trip there was a “compelling argument” for repaying the claim.

But Mr Randall’s claim could be legitimate, Senator Xenophon said.

“I’ve gone interstate to speak at conferences,” he said, adding the term “electorate business” was defined broadly.

When parliament returns in November Senator Xenophon plans to move for a joint houses inquiry into entitlements.

He rejected a Greens plan for an integrity commissioner, saying it would probably cost millions of dollars to save a couple of hundred thousand dollars.

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