Citizens Against Rorting of Entitlements (CARE) Policy Response Survey, by @budget_aus

Rosie Williams

Rosie Williams

Open Data Reporter at No Fibs
Rosie Williams (BA Sociology) owns and runs InfoAus.net, a site that hosts database journalism projects that engage the public with open data.
Rosie Williams
- 5 mins ago
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 InfoAus.net

YPZ4CYC

By Rosie Williams

1 November 2013

Source: InfoAus

What do you, I and US Secretary of State John Kerry have in common? We are all protagonists of grassroots activism. You can’t have democracy without the demos and I heard John Kerry tell of the grassroots activism leading to the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency this morning during his hookup livestreamed to theOpen Government Partnership Summit.

To begin with I wasn’t sure what a ‘Plenary Session’ was or if this was for me, but as the event unfolded I heard from an Estonian who created legislative change through crowdsourced policy consultations, a Romanian who cut down on the nepotism rampant in government hiring simply through publishing jobs on an independent website, all while I was tweeting out requests for people to take my one-question survey on the policy choices to address pollie travel rorts.  I realised I was part of an international movement toward open government and that I was crowdsourcing engagement in policy making for Australians.

You have not missed out! The survey will remain open at ExpenseAus, the database that I have created where you can examine politicians entitlements spending.

Citizens Against Rorting of Entitlements (CARE) Policy Response Survey

Preliminary Results: Total Respondents: 36

ANSWER CHOICES IN FAVOUR OF
Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament 75%
Separate independent agency/commissioner to evaluate expense claims by MP’s 75%
Rescind current entitlements legislation & force MP’s to claim expenses against their income tax 66.67%
Every individual MP claim amount published along with purpose/place/date/time 80.56%
Cap on entitlement spending per MP 66.67%
Other (please specify) – see below for specific suggestions  33.33%

It’s early days yet- this being the first real effort at promotion but the quality of suggestions is encouraging:

  • Statement to be provided of who travelled, or consumed expenses, with them [viz Partners, Children, Friends or the like] and such expenses not to be Taxpayer liability. (11/1/2013 9:19 AM)
  • Any fraudulent claims [Charity benefits] must be pursued by AFP as a Crime, the same as in Private Enterprise. (11/1/2013 9:00 AM)
  • Minchin Protocol to be abolished (11/1/2013 8:45 AM)
  • MPs get paid enough. Let them pay their own expenses for everything except overseas travel, if proven necessary. (11/1/2013 8:44 AM)
  • Rules also need to be limited. An MP is supposed to represent THEIR electorate, should be no spending out side of that electorate without very strict conditions. NO spending on party business should be allowed at all. (11/1/2013 8:38 AM)
  • That all official receipts, invitations, & associated paperwork for events & functions are scanned & placed onto database as attachment to each expense entry. Proof of information will help to stop rorting as they will think twice before claiming. (10/31/2013 12:48 PM)
  • There was also a media piece on banning parliamentarians from employing spouses and other family members ie.double dipping. Could be covered in Code of Conduct (10/31/2013 10:56 AM)
  • Report monthly on a public accessible website (10/31/2013 9:49 AM)
  • MPs pay their own expenses up front and are repaid after being cleared by independent auiditor (10/31/2013 9:26 AM)
  • Online instant notification of claims will allow much needed scrutiny.(10/31/2013 9:17 AM)
  • Purchasing Rules to ensure more efficient (and non-crony-related) spending of electorate funds, eg “Must use commercial printing service for more than a designated number of copies”. “Use phone or Skype in place of personal travel wherever practicable”. (10/30/2013 7:39 PM)

If the Estonians and Romanians can increase government transparency through citizen-lead initiatives then I challenge Aussies to do the same. Have your say in the survey- give me something more than a tweet to send to parliament  and show the world that Australian’s do care about government accountability and are willing to do something about it. Parliament returns in coming weeks – let’s show the new parliament that Australians are not just watching – we are playing our role in improving democracy as engaged citizens!


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Comments


  1. I was under the impression that people went into politics for all the right reasons.

    Stop laughing.

    I was under the impression that people became doctors to help people.

    Stop laughing.

    I was under the impression that Australian Courts were separate from political interference.

    Stop laughing.

    I was under the impression that elections in Australia were professionally run.

    Stop laughing.

    I was under the impression that all politicians would be treated equally under Australian law.

    Stop laughing.

    Somewhere along the line Australia lost its innocence and corruption a la U.S.A. style is now the norm.

    And I’m not laughing.


  2. Thanks for the opportunity to complete the survey. Politicians will have to be forced to stop rorting their expenses which won’t be easy-snouts have been in the trough without accountability for too long.

    The rorting demonstrates the contempt politicians, particularly those of the LNP, hold for Australians and their hypocritical outrage when a dole recipient is overpaid is beyond belief.

    It’s time for their expenses wings to be severely clipped.

    I am particularly in favour of a rigid cap to be placed on expenses and once the cap is reached they have to put their hands in their own pockets. No exceptions.

  3. joy cooper says

    MPs should be like every other worker & have to claim work-related expenses with their tax returns. Don’t they already receive a generous electoral allowance?

    Surely their office staff, advisers & other hangers-on, such as chiefs of staff, get paid, also generously, out of the public service budget. Apparently, many of the higher paid staff also get allowances over & above their wage.

    Genuine work-related expenses such as travel etc for the PM, Foreign Minister & others who DO really need to travel outside of their electorate, Canberra &/or Australia in carrying out their official portfolio duties should be shown separate to their added, unrelated to their duties, expenses. This will show up the possibility of rorting as, presently, they all seem to be lumped in together making it more difficult to pick the actual rorts.

    Something definitely needs to be done about this but my hopes on this score aren’t high with this Coalition government in power.


  4. Where do we sign the CARE petition.


    • Hi,

      I have not created a petition for CARE, it is a survey of policy options rather than a petition. To know what to ask for in a petition I needed concrete evidence of what most people actually wanted done prior to formalising that into a petition. It has been hard work so far getting responses to the survey. As of this morning there are just over 60 which is good but as an indication of numbers who might sign a petition, it does not appear to have reached enough people to garner the numbers required for media interest or to make much of an impression politically.

      A non-partisan expert review was already carried out in 2010 which set out several recommendations for improving transparency on entitlements spending however I do not believe this provided an opportunity for the public to give their input and as it was not a news topic at the time, the Labor government (with the assent of the Libs) buried the issue.

      The survey has two main functions: one is to give the public a chance to have THEIR say on what they want done with entitlements spending (which they did not get with the Belcher Review) and the other is to show the politicians that the public does want action on this issue.

      I am only one person and there’s not a lot more I can do personally to marshall interest. Parliament sits for the first time with the new government next week. If you want to support Citizens Against Rorting of Entitlements (CARE) on FB you can do it at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Citizens-Against-Rorting-of-Entitlements-CARE/244247399060027?ref=hl and of course please do the survey if you have not already done it at http://infoaus.net/budget/expenses/expenses_home.php


  5. Executive General Managers in large companies have to account for all receipts (hard copy) & bank statement evidence of corporate credit card usage.

    They have to account for all lower Managerial staff expenses as legitimate expenses (including their own) before End of Month transacting starts.

    If receipts are missing they are hunted down religiously as a matter of urgency prior to Finance Department scrutiny. Nobody gets away with rorting the system.

    Because the finance statements have to go before the board all allocations and correct use of company money is questioned and monitored vehemently.

    The honesty system is not working in parliament and I wouldn’t expect it to work under any circumstances. The Department of Finance needs a big shake up as well with stricter scrutiny being made on suspicious claims.

    It is sheer fantasy to think the current honesty system is working hence this is proven time and time again. External scrutiny of the Finance Department is paramount if rorting is to change long term.

    The only way changes will occur is with further public pressure and watch dog initiatives like Budget Aus but they need more public interest and ongoing support.

    • joy cooper says

      It beggars belief that MPs, particularly but not restricted to, the conservative side of politics think it is a job entitlement to charge the taxpayer for every little thing they do. Disgraceful. They would not get away with outside of politics.


  6. Airline loyalty points are another source of rorting, after all it is taxpayers money that buys their tickets in the first place.
    Since July 1st 2010 points received and redeemed are not recorded by the Dept of Finance, however in the two years prior (from July 1, 2008 to June 30 2010) more than 70 million points were received with only 6 million officially redeemed and this by a total of 41 MP’s (1 Family First, 1 Green, 11 Coalition and 28 ALP). Two of the ‘redeemers’ who stood out were John Faulkner and Harry Jenkins who redeemed a lot more than they earned in the two year period (obviously a carry over from previous years)
    The remaining parliamentarions did not notify the Dept of any points redeemed whatsoever although those 63 million odd points would no doubt have been utilized, the question is, by whom?
    Highest among the ‘nonredeemers’ were Lib Julie Bishop (more than one million points earned), Lib Steven Ciobo (880,973 points) while on the ALP side Peter Garret (521,199 points) and Stephen Conroy (478,070) were amongst the highest.
    The system should be changed so that those points are used before paying cash with our money.

  7. FOIcentric says

    Great article and great research Rosie. I think there might be a cap on expenses or allowances up to a certain $ amount.

    Politicians should be funded well enought to do their jobs properly in serving their electorates, and for parliamentary duties – but strictly for those purposes and not for personal activities including football games (unless invited as Minister for Sport for example), marathons, gym visits (in home electorate) weddings, dinners and theatre nights unrelated to work. The problem is the system has been allowed to become completely feral and the Minchin Protocol shores up the mindset of self-entitlement and if nobody notices, the debt goes unpaid.

    Another budget saver would be to get rid of the accommodation/travel allowance altogether and just pay the actual cost of the accommodation through a standard charge card or standing arrangement with providers, rather than the current system which (if I remember correctly) means any savings are pocketed by the politician. This is clearly waste and we know the LNP is against waste. ;)

  8. Francis matter says

    With the airline points – tickets are usually booked by Federal departments. Shouldn’t that mean that the traveller doesn’t receive the points but the department does so they can allocate as part of their budget? Stops pollies from gaining an advantage.