Two days before the 2013 Federal election Joe Hockey and Andrew Robb published a media release titled Final update on Federal Coalition Election Policy Commitments.
In it they categorically state:
“Today’s announcement also confirms that the Coalition will increase spending on hospitals, schools, defence and medical research – a far cry from the deceitful lies coming from the Prime Minister and the Labor Party that the Coalition would cut health and education.”
They also stated that “Reductions in projected aid spending of $4.5 billion” would be spent on roads whilst reassuring us that “The Coalition remains committed to the Millennium Development goal of increasing foreign aid to 0.5 per cent of GNI over time.”
In fact they slashed foreign aid by $11 billion meaning Australian foreign aid spending will reach its lowest level since records began. By 2016-17, it will be just over $3.8 billion, or 0.22 per cent of gross national income.
But it was a later promise that made me literally guffaw.
The Coalition will achieve “a further 0.25 per cent efficiency dividend on the public service ($428 million) through prudent limitations on Government advertising and consultancies as well as on Government travel.”
There are countless articles about the hundreds of millions spent by this government on advertising, market research, consultancies and media monitoring. They employ an army of spin doctors and have commissioned more reviews than I could list.
We have all heard about Tony’s use of private jets to fly around to parties but it is the overseas travel that drew my attention and in particular, the comings and goings of Bronwyn Bishop as she doesn’t hold a portfolio.
Shortly after being installed as Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ms Bishop led a delegation to Switzerland in an unsuccessful attempt to secure the presidency of the Inter-Parliamentary Union at their 129th Assembly.
The 126-year-old Inter-Parliamentary Union aims to safeguard peace and drive positive democratic change so Bishop’s decision to segregate people with face coverings in Parliament did nothing for her chances.
Ms Bishop and her delegation, consisting of Liberals Nola Marino and Senator Cory Bernardi, and Labor’s Tony Zappia and Senator Glenn Sterle, travelled to Geneva via Rome, Brussels and Vienna.
Whilst the outgoing delegations and visits list the dates as 6-10 October 2013, Bronwyn claimed from 4-12 October almost $27,000 for the trip including $17576.12 for fares and $6955.61 for accommodation and meals.
Then she was off again in January leading a delegation to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, to attend the 22nd Annual meeting of APPF, an organisation of parliamentarians from the Asia-Pacific region. On the way home she came via New Zealand where she attended the Conference of Speakers, Presiding Officers and Clerks.
For this trip, 11-24 January, Ms Bishop claimed $49,000 with $37,684.90 for fares and $8053.02 for accommodation and meals.
Though not being listed in the delegation to the 130th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in Geneva, and bilateral visit to the United Arab Emirates, she must have gone along as she claimed $17000 for official travel to Singapore, UAE and Switzerland 9-23 March.
Less than a week later Ms Bishop was off to the USA, Trinidad and Tobago for a trip with no explanation other than Official Travel. For this trip, 29 March to 9 April, she claimed over $53,000 with $36,432.92 spent on fares and $10,307.04 on accommodation and meals.
A couple of weeks later, once again with no explanation other than Official Travel, she was off to Singapore, UK, Morocco, Tunisia and France. From 27 April to 10 May she claimed almost $59,000 with $38,428.92 for fares, $11,776.54 for accommodation, and $6,707.18 for ground transport.
In total, from October 2013 to the end of June 2014, Bronwyn Bishop claimed $205,026.19 for overseas travel.
Whilst the expense claims for the second half of 2014 have not yet been published, records show the following trips for Ms Bishop:
9 to 20 September 2014 Visit to Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Laos and Korea by the Hon Bronwyn Bishop MP, Speaker of the House of Representatives (no purpose given)
3 to 18 October 2014 Parliamentary Delegation to attend the 131st Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, Geneva, Switzerland Delegation members: The Hon Bronwyn Bishop MP (Leader of the Delegation), Ms Nola Marino MP, Senator Cory Bernardi, Senator Glenn Sterle, Mr Tony Zappia MP.
10 to 16 January 2015 Parliamentary Delegation to attend the 23rd Asia Pacific Parliamentary Forum, Quito, Ecuador Delegation members: The Hon Bronwyn Bishop MP (Leader of the Delegation), Senator the Hon Ian Macdonald, Senator Anne McEwen, Mr Ewen Jones MP, Ms Joanne Ryan MP.
In the six months from January to June 2014, the claims for overseas travel by Tony Abbott, Julie Bishop and Andrew Robb added to $1,185,856.02 – almost $200,000 a month in overseas travel for these three alone.
In the same six months, Western Australian politicians claimed over $1 million in domestic fares with Michaelia Cash topping the list racking up $72,217.34 – over $12,000 per month in domestic fares.
There are 226 members of federal parliament. If these few snapshots represent “prudent limitations on Government travel” then it’s time we investigated teleconferencing and stopped wasting time and money on flying backwards and forwards for photo shoots or to be at question time which has become nothing more than a stage for theatrical posturing and poor behaviour.
Speaking of which . . .
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