Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Abbott’s age of entitlement: Tony's Top Twenty-five

In 2009 Tony Abbott falsely claimed flight and comcar costs while promoting his book and had to repay $9397.42.  Here are 25 other examples of Abbott's work-related claims:

1.    In August 2009 Tony Abbott claimed $1720 in travel allowance + $1,883 for flights while “volunteering” as a truancy assistant in Aurukun

2.    In April 2010 Tony Abbott claimed $1539 travel allowance for all nights of his Pollie Pedal charity bike ride from Melbourne to Sydney + $480 flight to Melbourne

3.    In November 2010 Tony Abbott and family claimed $420 travel allowance, $1956 for flights + $354 in comcar costs to attend the Melbourne Cup

4.    In December 2010 Tony Abbott and family claimed $1910 for flights + $171 in comcar costs to attend day 1 of Boxing day Ashes test in Melbourne
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5.    In April 2011 Tony Abbott claimed $2875 travel allowance for all nights of his Pollie Pedal charity bike ride from Gold Coast to Sydney + $556 flight to Brisbane

6.    In May 2011 Tony Abbott and family claimed $420 travel allowance, $1646 in flights + $599 in comcar costs to attend the AFL Dreamtime game in Melbourne

7.    In September 2011 Tony Abbott (+ passenger) claimed $744 travel allowance + $12133 for chartered flights from Sydney to St George and back to Brisbane to attend the Birdsville races

8.    In October 2011 Tony Abbott and family claimed $424 travel allowance, over $823 for flights + $550 in comcar costs to attend the AFL grand final in Melbourne

9.    In October 2011 Tony Abbott claimed $5623 for a chartered flight from Sydney to Bathurst return to attended the Bathurst 1000 V8 supercars

10.    In October 2011 Tony Abbott and family claimed $848 travel allowance, $3722 for flights + $763 in comcar costs to attend the Victoria Derby  in Melbourne

11.    In October 2011 Tony Abbott claimed $351 travel allowance while “volunteering” as builder’s labourer in Hopevale

12.    In November 2011 Tony Abbott claimed $349 travel allowance + $941 for flights to compete in 70.3 Port Macquarie ironman event

13.    In January 2012 Tony Abbott claimed $424 travel allowance, $771 for flights + $515 in comcar costs to attend the men’s final of the Australian Tennis Open in Melbourne

14.    In January 2012 Tony Abbott (and passenger) spent $9347 to charter a flight to Tamworth to attend the Tamworth Country Music festival. 

15.    In January 2012 Tony Abbott claimed $349 travel allowance + $1095 flights to Melbourne to compete in Pier to Pub swim in Lorne

16.    In January 2012 Tony Abbott claimed $736 travel allowance, $1438 flights + $684 in comcar costs to participate in the Tour Down Under Charity ride in Adelaide

17.    In March 2012 Tony Abbott claimed $3141 travel allowance for all nights of his Pollie Pedal charity bike ride from Geelong to Canberra + $482 flight from Canberra to Melbourne

18.    In April 2012 Tony Abbott claimed $349 travel allowance + $2023 flights to compete in Hervey Bay Surf Lifesaving Pier to Pub swim

19.    In May 2012 Tony Abbott claimed $424 travel allowance, $909 in flights + $328 in comcar costs to attend AFL Dreamtime game in Melbourne

20.    In August 2012 Tony Abbott claimed $234 travel allowance while “volunteering” at Aurukun Mission and claimed $9636 for charter travel to/from Aurukun

21.    In August 2012 Tony Abbott claimed $349 travel allowance + $650 flights to compete in Coffs Coast Cycle Challenge

22.    In Sept 2012 Tony Abbott claimed $354 travel allowance + $160 flights to compete in Wagga ‘Lake to Lagoon’ fun run

23.    In Sept 2012 Tony Abbott and family claimed $429 travel allowance, $1480 in flights + $540 in comcar costs to attend the AFL grand final

24.    In November 2012 Tony Abbott and family claimed $848 travel allowance, $1053 for flights + $594 in comcar costs to attend the Victorian Derby in Melbourne

25.    In December 2012 Tony Abbott claimed $1108 travel allowance for three nights while driving a big rig down the Pacific Hway


That’s over $84,000 in work-related travel entitlements Abbott claimed while “volunteering”, running, swimming, cycling and attending major sporting events.



All in a day’s work? 
Travel allowance is payed to Opposition Office Holders for the cost of accommodation, meals, and incidentals during overnight stays away from home when the stay is primarily due to official business such as sittings of Parliament, parliamentary committee meetings, official business as Opposition Office Holder, or parliamentary political party meetings.

The pattern and consistency of these travel claims provides the most compelling case against Abbott.  Abbott’s work related travel is regularly associated with attending major spectator events or participating in sports events.  More than just a coincidence?  It seems likely the primary purpose for his travel is to attend these volunteer, charity, sporting or major spectator events.  And if his travel is not primarily for official business it is not a legitimate work related expense. 

International comparison
This list of Abbott's dubious travel expense claims is astounding.  Truly of international standard.  So for an international comparison consider the Parliamentary Expenses scandal in the UK which arose when MPs and members of House of Lords were found to have systematically rorted their claims for travel and accommodation expenses.  Many MPs were found to have made claims for expenses which were not "wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred for the performance of a Member’s parliamentary duties".  Several MPs were charged and convicted, and many more stood down or resigned.  For example:

•    Elliot Morley was sentenced to 10 months jail for dishonestly claiming over ₤30,000 (around $50000) in parliamentary expenses
•    John Taylor, Baron of Warwick was sentenced to 12 months jail for falsely claiming ₤11277 (around $20000) parliamentary expenses for travel costs
•    Jim Devine was sentenced to 16 months jail for dishonestly claiming ₤8385 (around $15200) in expenses
•    Baron Hanningfield was sentenced to 9 months jail for incorrectly claiming ₤14000 (around $25000) in travel allowances.

Consider Abbott’s $84000+ of claims in this context. 

Abbott expenses v Slipper expenses?
And in Australia Peter Slipper faces court over alleged inappropriate claims of taxi expenses of less than $1000.

This list shows Tony Abbott has claimed over $84,000 in dubious travel expenses for his travel while volunteering, running, riding swimming and attending major sports events.   But not a word is spoken.



But wait there’s more ...
In all these examples the expense claims are documented in Abbott’s own Parliamentary Entitlement Reports and evidence of his participation in non-work activities is in media reports and transcripts on Abbott’s own website.

There are many other dubious entitlement claims not listed above.  For example Tony Abbott and family travelled to Melbourne on the day of the F1 grand prix in 2011 and claimed over $2800 in work-related travel entitlements.  Was it a coincidence he was working in Melbourne that particular day or did he travel to attend the race?  On another occasion in 2011 Abbott travelled to Melbourne, participated in the Puffing Billy charity race, and received over $3000 in travel entitlements for two days.  Did he just happened to be in Melbourne on work-related purposes at the time of another sports event?

Then there are the costs of his stunts over the past three years.  Visiting a Gold Coast rubbish tip, chartered flights to outback stations to discuss live cattle exports, visiting an ice works, chartered flights to North Queensland to discuss his wild rivers private members bill, his infamous trip to Wyalla. Perhaps this is appropriate travel for an opposition leader though it seems little more than a taxpayer funded backdrop for his daily media appearances. 

Monday, 5 August 2013

7 A day at the races

Today Tony “Travel Allowance” Abbott said “I want to say to the Australian people, I have more respect for your money” (1)

How much respect? Just enought to claim over $24000 in work expenses to attend 4 horse races!

TAboott seems to enjoy spending a day at the races. It is reported that as a youngster he frequented the races with his father, but that a busy career, young family and his mothers caution kept him away from the racetrack for a number of years. (2)

Recently he has made a return to the track. But surprisingly TAbbott claims his visits to the race track are for work purposes. So unlike most punters TAbbott now always backs a winner as he receives allowances in respect of his travel, accommodation and other expenses.

On 2 November 2010, TAbbott attended the Melbourne Cup.
According to the register of members’ interests TAbbott received hospitality from the Victoria Racing Club in the committee room and was accompanied by his wife, daughter and her guest. 
His 2010 report on parliamentary entitlements shows that TAbbott claimed work expenses on the 2 and 3 November 2010:
$420 in Travel Allowance for staying overnight in Melbourne on 2/11
$464.05 for flights from Sydney to Melbourne on 2/11
He flew from Melbourne to Adelaide on 3/11. I will not cost any return flight
354.47 for comcar costs in Melbourne on 2/11 and 3/11
$928.10 for family member flights from Sydney to Melbourne and return on 2/11 and
$564.72 for family member flights from Sydney to Melbourne and return on 2/11.

So that’s $2731.34 TAbbott received from the Australian taxpayers to attend the Melbourne cup.

Unfortunately Parliament was sitting in Canberra on Melbourne cup day in 2011. But TAbbott did still manage a visit to the AAMI Victoria Derby on 29 October 2011.
According to the register of members’ interests TAbbott was a guest of the Victoria Racing Club, was hosted by Chairman Michael Burn, and dropped into marquees later in the afternoon. He was accompanied by his wife and daughters.
His 2011 report on parliamentary entitlements shows that TAbbott claimed work expenses during this period:
$848 in Travel Allowance for staying overnight in Melbourne on 29/10 and 30/10
$1011.78 for flights from Sydney to Melbourne on 29/10 and Melbourne to Canberra on 30/10
$763.60 for comcar costs in Melbourne on 29/10 and 30/10
$903.59 for a family member flights from Sydney to Melbourne and return on 29/10 and
$1807.18 for two other family member flights from Sydney to Melbourne on 29/10 and return on 31/10.

So that’s $5334.15 TAbbott received from the Australian taxpayers to attend the Victoria Derby.

TAbbott was back at the AAMI Victoria Derby on 3 November 2012.
According to the register of members’ interests TAbbott was again the guest of the Victoria Racing Club, took advantage of the marquees, and was accompanied by his wife and daughters.
His 2012 report on parliamentary entitlements shows that TAbbott claimed this trip as a work expense and claimed allowances:
$848 in Travel Allowance for staying overnight in Melbourne on 2/11 and 3/11
$546.02 for flights from Sydney to Melbourne on 2/11 and return on 4/11
$364.55 for comcar costs in Melbourne on 2/11 3/11 and 4/11
$507.82 for a family member flights from Sydney to Melbourne on 3/11 and return on 4/11 and
$230.44 for family member comcar in Melbourne on 3/11.

So that’s $2496.83 TAbbott received from the Australian taxpayers to attend the Victoria Derby in 2012.

TAbbott attended other races. He was a guest of the Australian Turf Club at the Golden Slipper in April 2012. He also attended the Pinjarra Park races in Perth in April 2010 and watched the Tony Abbott Real Action Cup.

But a highlight was likely his trip to the Birdsville races in 2011. He reports on his website that he attended at the invitation of Bruce Scott so that he could participate in the Birdsville races. To get to the Birdsville races TAbbott chartered flights from Sydney to St George on the 1 September 2011 and from St George to Brisbane on 2 September.
The cost to the Australian taxpayer of this charter flight was $12133.00.
$349 in Travel Allowance for staying overnight in St George on 1/9
$395 in Travel Allowance for staying overnight in Brisbane on 2/9
There were also comcar costs in Sydney and Brisbane on the 1/9 and 2/9 of $634.99

So that’s $13511.99 TAbbott received from the Australian taxpayers to attend the Birdsville races.

All up that’s $24074.31 in work-related travel expenses that TAbbott has received to attend four race meetings.  Again the question is whether these are genuine work expenses?

 Perhaps attending the races with your family is part of the duties of an Opposition Leader? Just like participating in fun runs or attending the boxing day test in Melbourne.

Or were there other duties he performed that just happened to coincide with the races? But I think the more important question is whether these are appropriate expense claims for a person who lectures others about character, honesty and inappropriate use of expenses?



(1) http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/aug/04/election-campaign-cars-carbon-tax
(2)  http://www.donrandallmp.com/Newsroom/MediaReleases/tabid/89/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/1439/Abbott-trackside-for-real-action-in-Pinjarra.aspx