Rosie Williams

Rosie Williams

Open Data Reporter at No Fibs
Rosie Williams (BA Sociology) owns and runs, a site that hosts database journalism projects that engage the public with open data.
Rosie Williams
Rosie Williams
Rosie is a long time activist who began lobbying the federal government at the age of 16. You can find out more about Rosie at


By Rosie Williams

11 November 2013

It is going to be a big week leading into the return to parliament. On Tuesday night 12th from 8pm DST (7pm QLD) I will be running the second #BudgetAus Twitter chat focusing again on the rorts. This is the day our new parliament sits for the first time so it is bound to be an interesting evening.

There are 96 responses to the CARE (Citizens Against Rorting of Entitlements) survey. The answers are not mutually exclusive of one another so it is not the case that because more people voted for one option that another option is not also important.  It is safe to say that all answers were popular with respondents.

The most popular option with  85.42{17ac88c265afb328fa89088ab635a2a63864fdefdd7caa0964376053e8ea14b3} was a Code of Conduct for politicians. You can find background reading on this option here.

With a rate of 84.38{17ac88c265afb328fa89088ab635a2a63864fdefdd7caa0964376053e8ea14b3} came the desire for more detailed and timely publishing of expense claims to include place, time, date and purpose.  The existing research projects set up by the FairfaxThe Guardian and also myself, all rely on data which is published in a format that requires a lot of work to get it into a database where readers can work with it to find matters of interest.

This is not in line with current practices around the world for open government and budget transparency. The Open Government Partnership that Australia finally joined in May last year requires that our government fulfils commitments toward providing easy access to government data for the purpose of accountability and engagement by the public. InfoAus demonstrates 4 projects which use government published data to provide transparency to Australians and asks the government to continue to work toward improving the file formats that enable this information to be put in databases where the public can interact with it.

A separate agency to regulate suspected rorting of entitlements received an endorsement rate of 81.25{17ac88c265afb328fa89088ab635a2a63864fdefdd7caa0964376053e8ea14b3} with some concern of the cost of this to taxpayers. 69.79{17ac88c265afb328fa89088ab635a2a63864fdefdd7caa0964376053e8ea14b3} of respondents liked the idea of forcing politicians to claim their expenses the same way other taxpayers do, satisfying the same rules the ATO applies to the rest of the population.

65.63{17ac88c265afb328fa89088ab635a2a63864fdefdd7caa0964376053e8ea14b3} of respondents were in favour of a cap on entitlements with one respondent suggesting that it would have to be quite large to allow politicians to make themselves available across the country.

There was support among the suggestions for revoking the Minchin Protocol- the legislation  which, according to The Guardian was introduced with the aim of avoiding accusation of partisanship when an expense claim is suspected of breaching guidelines. The speciousness of this reasoning was revealed by The Guardian where the newspaper explains the collusion between the major parties to conceal information relating to entitlements spending from public access:

[dropshadowbox align=”none” effect=”lifted-both” width=”650px” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]”There’s a big gap in our current framework of transparency and accountability to have blanket exemptions for three departments that are established to support the parliament, but that are put on a completely different level from all other executive agencies,” Timmins said[/dropshadowbox]

Tony Abbott made an announcement on Friday of changes to the entitlements system, but still only the public and media that can (with a lot of hard work) chase down details to find dodgy-looking claims.

That is obviously why we are in the situation we now find ourselves when there are claims coming to light that many of us feel ought to be well outside acceptable limits.

Obviously unless those limits are changed then the current situation where the public and media have to track down errant claims is likely to continue. There is a lot more scrutiny on expenses and travel now and the main stream media along with my own site will mean that politicians will need to be a lot more conservative in their claims or face the scorn of the public.

The role of Citizens Against Rorting of Entitlements – CARE is to give the public a voice in the policy changes. As such I encourage people who care about this issue to send the links for this and related blog posts to their Senators and Members of Parliament via email and also  on Facebook and Twitter. Also attend Tuesday night’s Twitterchat to create buzz around the issue and debate Tony Abbott’s announcement.