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