Expenses ‘grey area’ need reform: Greens

Expenses ‘grey areas’ need reform: Greens

By Online parliamentary correspondent Emma Rodgers

Posted 22 minutes ago

MPs should be forced to hand back any of their electoral allowance they do not spend instead of absorbing it into their salary, Greens leader Bob Brown says.

Despite a freeze on MPs’ salaries for at least 15 months, the Remuneration Tribunal recently increased their electoral allowances by $90 a week to $32,000.

The allowance is used by MPs to cover electoral expenses but any money they do not spend can be kept as taxable income.

But MPs are not required to keep a record of how the money is spent.

Senator Brown is pushing for several reforms to the rules surrounding the use of the allowance, including having a regulator who would determine what spending is allowable and an auditor to enforce the rules.

He also wants any unspent money to be given back to Treasury.

He says the rules are unclear as to what is legitimate spending and there is no way to check what MPs are using the money for.

“I think in MPs’ defence they need a regulator who can make very clear decisions when asked as to whether or not spending is legitimate,” he told AM.

“There’s a lot of other items, refurbishing offices or decorating offices for example, where it’s a complete grey area, and you don’t know whether or not it’s legitimate electorate expenditure.”

Senator Brown’s call comes in the wake of Britain’s expenses scandal, which revealed the extravagant spending of some MPs on pet food, gardeners and cleaning.

Employment Participation Minister Brendan O’Connor says he spends all of his allowance.

He maintains that MPs are held accountable for their spending through requirements to the Australian Tax Office.

“What each MP and senator must do is acquit themselves of that expenditure properly and I’m sure MPs and senators do just that,” he told Sky News.

Liberal backbencher Bronwyn Bishop has also defended the system which she says is better than the US or British system.

“Quite frankly I think most members of Parliament, me included, earn the money that we are paid,” she told Sky News.

“If you’re not earning the money you shouldn’t be there I guess.”

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