Wednesday, 31 July 2013

6 Attending major sporting events

Not only does Tony “Travel Allowance” Abbott claim travel, accommodation and other expenses for his “volunteer” fund raising on the pollie pedal AND claim travel, accommodation and other expenses while participating in fun runs, ocean swims and bike rides AND claim travel, accommodation and other expenses while “volunteering” in remote indigenous communities, TA also claims travel, accommodation and other expenses to watch major sporting events. Here are four examples where he claims over $12300 in expenses to attend cricket, AFL, tennis and V8 supercars. 

According to the register of members’ interests, TAbbott received hospitality from the MCC and Cricket Australia to attend the 4th Ashes test in Melbourne on Boxing Day 2010, and was accompanied by Margie.
Always on the job, the 2011 report on parliamentary entitlements shows that TAbbott claimed work expenses on the 26 December 2010:
   $955.38 for flights from Sydney to Melbourne and return
   $171 for comcar costs in Melbourne and
   $955.38 for family flights from Sydney to Melbourne and return.
So that’s $2081.76 in work-related expenses for TA to attend the cricket.

According to the register of members’ interests, TAbbott was the guest of Theiss at the men’s final of the Australian Open on 29 Jan 2012.
The 2012 report on parliamentary entitlements shows that TAbbott also claimed work expenses on 29 Jan 2012:
   $424 in Travel Allowance for staying overnight in Melbourne on 29/1
   $771.11 for flights from Sydney to Melbourne on 29/1 and return to Canberra on 30/1
   $515.87 for comcar costs in Melbourne on 29/1 and 30/1
So that’s $1710.98 in work-related expenses for TA to attend the tennis

According to the register of member’s interests, TAbbott was the guest of the AFL at the grand final on 1 October 2011.
But TA obviously went to Melbourne primarily for work-related purposes as the 2011 report on parliamentary entitlements shows that TAbbott claimed his travel as a work expense:
   $424 in Travel Allowance for staying overnight in Melbourne on 30/9
   No separate cost provided for flights from Brisbane to Melbourne on 30/9 and Melb to Syd on 1/10 but estimate as $823.80
   $461.51 for comcar costs in Melbourne on 1/10
   $823.80 for family flights from Syd-Melb -Syd on 1/10
   $88.86 for family comcar costs in Melb on 1/10
So that’s $2621.97 in work-related expenses for TA to attend the AFL grand final

TAbbott attended the Bathurst 1000 V8 supercars on 9 October 2011 (http://www.flickr.com/photos/tonyabbott/6228034413/)
But according to the 2011 report on parliamentary entitlements TAbbott claimed work expenses on 9 October:
   No Travel Allowance as he didn’t stay overnight
   No commercial flight costs
   $262.43 for two comcar trips in Sydney on 9 October
   $5623.73 for a chartered flight from Sydney to Bathurst and return on 9 October
So that’s $5886.16 in expenses for TA to attend the Bathurst 1000 *

All up that’s $12300.87 in work-related travel expenses for just four major sporting events.

Are these genuine work expenses for an opposition leader? Perhaps more importantly, are these appropriate expense claims for an opposition leader who lectures others about character, honesty and managing expenses?



(information from same sources and http://www.aph.gov.au/parliamentary_business/committees/house_of_representatives_committees?url=pmi/declarations.htm)

*  Poor Tony.  As a point of comparison Joe Hockey declared in his register of interests that he was the guest of Aviation Transport at the Bathurst V8 supercars in 2010 and they covered the cost of his attendence and charter travel.  Hockey seems to have made no claim of public expenses.  It's a shame that Tony had to rely on the Australian taxpayers to fund his V8 experience. 

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

3 The Pollie Pedal

For several years TA has organised the Pollie Pedal ride because politicians have wanted to do “something that was a little bit selfless, something a little bit humble, and out of the ordinary”. (1) In his budget reply speech earlier this year TA said that he “would not have ridden 1000 kilometres, the week before last, to raise money for Carers Australia if I was half-hearted about the NDIS”. (2)

In 2008, TA’s website noted that he started the Pollie Pedal in 1998 to raise money for various charities. In 2010 Tony Abbott rode from Melbourne to Sydney, in 2011 he rode from the Gold Coast to Sydney, and in 2012 he organised and rode on the Pollie Pedal bike ride from Geelong to Canberra.

So, based on media reports and his own statements about the purpose of the Pollie Pedal it seems safe to conclude that undertaking a selfless task like raising money for charity through the Pollie Pedal is not official business. Compare the reported route of the Pollie Pedal each year with TA’s Parliamentary Entitlement Claims.

The Pollie Pedal in 2010:
Wednesday 7th April Melbourne – Yea 96km
Thursday 8th April Yea – Benalla 124km
Friday 9th April Benalla – Hume Weir 130km
Saturday 10th April Hume Weir – Khancoban 140km
Sunday 11th April Khancoban – Berridale 140km
Monday 12th April Berridale – Canberra 140km
Tuesday 13th April Canberra – Goulburn 95km
Wednesday 14th April Goulburn – Camden 145km
Thursday 15th April Camden – Sydney 67km
From: http://tonyabbott.com.au/PolliePedal/PolliePedal2010.aspx

What TA claimed in 2010:
06 Apr 10 Melbourne $415.00
07 Apr 10 Yea $114.00
08 Apr 10 Benalla $114.00
09 Apr 10 Albury $114.00
10 Apr 10 Khancoban $114.00
11 Apr 10 Berriedale $114.00
13 Apr 10 Goulburn $114.00
14 Apr 10 Camden $340.00
Sat 2 April 110 Gold Coast – Kyogle
Sun 3 April 126 Kyogle – Grafton
Mon 4 April 147 Grafton – Dorrigo
Tues 5 April 120 Dorrigo – Armidale
Wed 6 April 64 Armidale – Walcha
Thurs 7 April 143 Walcha – Gloucester
Fri 8 April 148 Gloucester – Cessnock
Sat 9 April 117 Cessnock – Ettalong Beach
Sun 10 April 40 Ettalong Beach – Sydney
1 April Travel Allowance Gold Coast $345
2 April Travel Allowance Kyogle $345
3 April Travel Allowance Grafton $115
4 April Travel Allowance Dorrigo $345
5 April Travel Allowance Armidale $345
6 April Travel Allowance Walcha $345
7 April Travel Allowance Gloucster $345
8 April Travel Allowance Cessnock $345
9 April Travel Allowance Ettalong Beach
“The Opposition Leader’s annual “pollie pedal” kicks off on March 25 in Geelong …” “The ride will go through Carrum Downs, Warragul, Sale, Lakes Entrance and Orbost before crossing the NSW border to Bombala and Cooma, finishing at Parliament House in Canberra on April 1.”
22 and 24 March Travel Allowance Geelong $698
25 March Travel Allowance Carrum Downs $349
26 March Travel Allowance Warragul $349
27 March Travel Allowance Sale $349
28 March Travel Allowance Lakes Entrance $349
29 March Travel Allowance Orbost $349
30 March Travel Allowance Bombala $349
31 March Travel Allowance Cooma $349
From: http://www.finance.gov.au/publications/parliamentarians-reporting/docs/T30/ABBOTT_Tony.pdf

Summary: Abbott’s Parliamentary Entitlement Reports shows his travel allowance claims precisely match the route of the Pollie Pedal each year. He claimed Travel Allowance for each and every night on his Pollie Pedal in 2010, 2011 and 2012. All up, that’s over $7000 TA had received in Travel Allowance for his charity work on the Pollie Pedal over these three years. Each night stay must have been claimed as being primarily for “official duties”.

In addition, there are other associated expenses such as flights and Comcar costs around these dates that may have been for the Pollie Pedal and paid by the Commonwealth. These aren't listed but all are included in the Parliamentary Entitlement Reports.

Is participation in the Pollie Pedal really official business?


But not all pollies are equal:
TA doesn’t ride alone. From 2010:

Coalition frontbencher and fellow cycling enthusiast Kevin Andrews is also taking part in the 1,000-kilometre Pollie Pedal event and says he will be pushed by his leader. “Tony is very fit. He’s always very enthusiastic and he’s always hard to beat up a hill,” he said.’ (3)

Unlike TA, Kevin Andrews’ Parliamentary Entitlement Report for 2010 shows that he did not claim Travel Allowance for the 2010 Pollie Pedal. Perhaps this is an example of a “selfless” act. There are other politicians who participated in Pollie Pedal over the years who did not claim travel entitlements.

(1) http://www.news.com.au/breaking-news/national/pollie-pedal-gives-mps-a-lift-abbott/story-e6frfku9-1226622658633
(2) http://www.tonyabbott.com.au/News/tabid/94/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/9191/Address-In-Reply-Parliament-House-Canberra.aspx
(3) http://www.abc.net.au/news/2010-04-07/abbott-sets-off-on-pollie-pedal/2602278

1 Abbott's travel entitlements and the test of character

We assess a person’s character through their actions. Julia Gillard had “questions to answer” about her past actions because it was said to reflect on her character. The expense claims of Peter Slipper and Craig Thomson apparently showed they had failed the "character test". 

Tony Abbott (TA) is likely to be the next PM. But Margo Kingston’s recent investigation clearly shows that TA himself has inappropriately claimed travel entitlements in the past and has had to repay money. (1)

But anyone can make a mistake. Can't they. 

There have also been reports in social media about other questionable travel expenses.  All this information is in the public domain and is presented here with links to sources and cross-referenced to provide the 'context'.  Perhaps all these travel claims are legitimate and entirely within the rules. Or it may be that it is TA who has some "questions to answer" and maybe this is a test of his character.

2 Appropriate use of entitlements
3 The Pollie Pedal
4 Participating in sporting events
5 Voluntary work in indigenous communities


(1) http://nofibs.com.au/2013/07/06/exclusive-abbott-forced-to-repay-taxpayers-9400-he-charged-taxpayers-to-promote-his-book/

5 Voluntary work in remote indigenous communities


TA is widely admired for his commitment and work in remote indigenous communities. According to media reports
 “For several years the federal Liberal leader has allocated at least a week of his time each year to volunteer work in indigenous communities and says he will continue this if elected prime minister.” (1)

TA himself has said
I have tried to support Noel Pearson’s work with deeds as well as with words: as a teacher’s aide in Coen in 2008, as a truancy assistant in Aurukun in 2009, as a builder’s labourer in Hopevale in 2011 and last year, along with Warren Mundine and my Shadow Minister Senator Nigel Scullion and a team of Australia’s leading business people, I participated in the ‘Books and Mortar’ project to refurbish the school library there. … should the Coalition win government, I reiterate my undertaking to spend a week every year helping in an indigenous community. It will be good for me. It is important that our national leaders remain grounded in the real life of our country.” (2)

According to his Parliamentary Entitlements Report for 2009, during the period between 17th to 24th August TA claimed travel allowance for 8 days at $215 per day (a total of $1720) for the time he spent in Aurukun and reported his time there as “official business”.

In 2011 when TA went to Hopevale as a builder’s labourer his Parliamentary Entitlements Report shows that he claimed $349 for staying in Cairns on the 15th of October and $351 (3 nights at $117 per night) from the 16th to 18th of October while based at Cooktown. TA notes that he wasn’t the only one who “mucked in” at Hopevale and his parliamentary colleague Alan Tudge helped “mill some timber”.(3) This is interesting because Tudge didn’t claim travel allowance for his time and contribution at Hopevale. (4)

The 2012 Parliamentary Entitlements Report shows that while TA was leading a delegation of business people on a “working bee” he also received travel allowance ($349 for one night in Cairns, $234 for two nights in Aurukun, and another night in Cairns at $349) and reported his time at Aurukun as “official business”.  He also claimed $9.636.36 for charter travel from Cairns to Aurukun Mission and return on the 10th and 12th of August.

Summary:  TA seems genuinely concerned about the state of remote indigenous communities and should be commended for anything he does to help out and draw attention to the circumstances of indigenous Australians.  But is he volunteering as the media suggest or on official duties?  The line seems very blurred. 

(1) http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/breaking-news/abbott-heads-to-aurukun-working-bee/story-e6frea7l-1226443933467
(2) http://www.naccho.org.au/download/aboriginal-health/Leader%20of%20the%20Oposition%20Tony%20Abbott.pdf
(3)  http://www.liberal.org.au/latest-news/2011/10/18/tony-abbott-interview-paula-tapiolas-0
(4) http://www.finance.gov.au/publications/parliamentarians-reporting/docs/T29/TUDGE_Alan.pdf

4 Participating in sporting activities

We are all familiar with images of TA participating in ironman events, triathlons and road cycle rides. Could these events be considered official duties?

Port Macquarie Ironman 70.3 event
On 6 November 2011 TA participated in the 70.3 Ironman Age Group Championships in Port Macquarie.
More than 800 amateur triathletes, including Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, will be in Port Macquarie next week for the 70.3 Ironman Age Group Championships.” (1) (2) (3)

TA’s 2011 Parliamentary Entitlement Report shows that on 5 November he claimed $349 in travel allowance while staying at Port Macquarie on official business, and that he claimed $941.10 for flights from Brisbane to Sydney to Port Macquarie on 5 November and Port Macquarie to Sydney on 6 November.

Lorne Pier to Pub swim
On 7 January 2012 TA participated in the Pier to Pub swim in Lorne, VIC. TA tweeted: “Relieved to have finished my first Pier to Pub swim in Lorne. Congratulations to Ted Baillieu who beat me by 10 minutes!” (4) (5)

TA’s 2012 Parliamentary Entitlement Report shows that on 6 January he claimed $349 in travel allowance while staying at Lorne, and that he claimed $1,095.24 for flights from Sydney to Melbourne and return on the 6th and 7th of January.

Hervey Bay Surf Lifesaving Pier to Pub swim
On 21 April TA participated in the Hervey Bay Surf Lifesaving Pier to Pub swim.
PERFECT sunny weather greeted Tony Abbott and his fellow competitors, who plunged into the water on Saturday morning for the 14th annual Hervey Bay Surf Lifesaving Club Pier to Pub ocean swim.” (6) (7)

TA’s 2012 Parliamentary Entitlement Report shows that on 20 April he claimed $349 in travel allowance while staying at Hervey Bay, and that he claimed $2,023.81 for flights from Brisbane to Hervey Bay on 20 April and from Hervey Bay to Brisbane and onwards on 21st.

Coffs Coast Cycle Challenge
On August 5 2012 TA participated in the Coffs Coast Cycle Challenge. “Almost 80 protestors joined together at Bellingen's Lavender Bridge to try and catch the eye of Federal opposition leader Tony Abbott as he rode past as part of the NAB Cycle Challenge.” (8) (9)

TA’s 2012 Parliamentary Entitlement Report shows that on 4 August he claimed $349 in travel allowance while staying at Coffs Harbour, and that he claimed $683.24 for flights from Sydney to Coffs Harbour and return on the 4th and 5th of August.

Wagga Wagga Lake to Lagoon fun run
On 8 September 2012 TA participated in the Wagga ‘Lake to Lagoon’ fun run. One other participant blogged (not referenced to protect anonymity) “Before too long it's time for the dorky warm-up stuff and I find myself right behind the Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott. Can't say I respect his politics, but I respect a man who can run. Right up until the gun goes off and he sets off at a snail's pace, forcing me to dodge and weave like a maniac in order to get in front. What a loser!” (10) (11)

TA’s 2012 Parliamentary Entitlement Report shows that on 8 September he claimed $354 in travel allowance while staying at Wagga Wagga and $160 for flight from Sydney to Wagga Wagga on 8 September.

Summary: These are 5 examples where TA claimed travel allowance and travel costs in respect of overnight stays the night before participating in sporting events. Were these overnight stays primarily due to official duties?

(1) http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-10-27/abbott-to-contest-port-macquarie-ironman/3603232
(2) http://ironstruck.com/ironman-port-macquarie-70-3-results-2011
(3) http://www.multisportaustralia.com.au/RaceTecResults/
(4) https://twitter.com/TonyAbbottMHR/status/155525085099343873
(5) http://www.oceanswims.com/default2.asp?active_page_id=373
(6) http://www.frasercoastchronicle.com.au/news/tony-dons-those-budgie-smugglers-in-bay-challenge/1353602/
(7) http://www.sportingpulse.com/assoc_page.cgi
(8) http://www.coffscoastadvocate.com.au/news/abbott-ride-greeted-csg-protest/1493636/
(9) http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-08-03/tony-abbott-coasts-in-to-coffs/4175628
(10) http://www.workoutwagga.com.au/news/lake-lagoon-2012
(11) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jnd22dTa90U

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

2 Determining appropriate use of parliamentary travel entitlements

There is a Department of Finance and Deregulation report (1) that sets out the circumstances under which travel allowance is payed to Opposition Office Holders.


Travel Allowance for all Opposition Office Holders:
An allowance set by the Remuneration Tribunal to cover the cost of accommodation, meals, and incidentals for each overnight stay in a place other than the Opposition Office Holder’s home base when that stay is primarily due to:
(a) sittings of Parliament, or direct travel to or from such sittings;
(b) official business as an Opposition Office Holder;
(c) meetings or formal business of a parliamentary committee of which the Opposition Office Holder is a member, or direct travel to or from such meetings;
(d) meetings in Canberra of an Opposition Office Holder’s parliamentary political party, its executive or its committees, or direct travel to or from such meetings;
(e) meetings outside Canberra of an Opposition Office Holder’s parliamentary political party executive, or direct travel to or from such meetings; or
(f) meetings outside Canberra of an Opposition Office Holder’s parliamentary political party, its executive, its committees, its national conference, or its state conference, and meetings outside the Opposition Office Holder’s electorate on electorate business (limited to a maximum of 10 nights per year in total), or direct travel to or from such meetings.



It seems the key test of eligibility for travel entitlements is whether the primary purpose of any overnight stay is for official business.

All travel entitlements presented here are from the publicly available Parliamentary Entitlements Reports. (2)   Information about the expenditure for all parliamentarians (past and present) is listed from the second half of 2009 to 2012. There are often reports in the media based on this information. (3)