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.