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

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

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.