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Canberra home ownership for visiting members of parliament

By johnboy - 20 May 2009 23

With all the world agape as the London Daily Telegraph shreds the entire parliament of Westminster to pieces over MPs rorting expenses local media have apparently been sent out to find similar stories.

It’s not like our parliamentarians are noticeably more moral than their British counterparts is it?

What our local lads and ladies have got going for them is the foresight to get their expenses exempted from Freedom Of Information laws many years ago so it’s much harder for the media or the public to go digging into what they’re after.

Undeterred, News Limited have found a bit of a story to get their teeth stuck into.

It involves MPs buying a house here in Canberra (apparently presuming their tenure in parliament is going to be over many parliamentary terms), staying in it for four or five months a year, and claiming $215 a night in travel allowance for every night they’re staying in their Canberra home.

The MPs involved don’t think there’s anything wrong with this at all. It’ll be interesting to see what more comes to light.

What’s Your opinion?


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23 Responses to
Canberra home ownership for visiting members of parliament
p1 1:29 pm 20 May 09

I know the gov’t guys we work with just get the cash, because when organising field work, we want to stay somewhere nice and convenient, and they want to stay somewhere as cheap as possible and pocket the difference.

caf 1:22 pm 20 May 09

Another way involves MP (A) renting MP (B)s appartment whilst MP (B) rents MP (A)s place.

This could be seen as a rort of the negative gearing provisions, but it’s one that’s available to anyone, not just MPs. I have a feeling that the tax office would look dubiously upon such an arrangement.

justbands 1:19 pm 20 May 09

> The TA system, without any account for if the money was spent or not though has always struck me as dubious.

I thought those days were long over & that you now had to account for money actually spent? I remember about 15 years ago (when I was a public servant) going to Sydney for a course, staying in a pub for about $100 for the entire week & spending my TA on a bass amp. Where’s my News Ltd paper expose! 😉

p1 1:08 pm 20 May 09

Having thought about it, I tend to agree with the idea that this isn’t really a rort of the TA system. The TA system, without any account for if the money was spent or not though has always struck me as dubious. If I was getting $215 a night when away with work I’d be taking the swag and stove, and saving $200 after expenses….

Clown Killer 12:49 pm 20 May 09

The way this scam most commonly works is that an MPs spouse or a trust or other structure controlled by the MP or their spouse is the owner of the property. The MP then ‘rents’ the property from that entity/person.

Another way involves MP (A) renting MP (B)s appartment whilst MP (B) rents MP (A)s place.

The diference between what they pay in rent and the real cost of holding the asset becomes a tax deduction.

caf 12:36 pm 20 May 09

The more I look at this, the less dodgy it seems. This looks like the only real option for pollies who want a house to live in while they’re here – renting a house would be at least $23000 a year, which the TA (which is only paid for the nights they’re here) wouldn’t cover half of.

And if buying an asset was their real aim, they’d be better off renting it out and using the TA to pay for a hotel room, because the return is much better even without negative gearing!

caf 12:30 pm 20 May 09

You can’t negative gear by renting out a property to yourself. If anyone is doing *that* then that would be a really big story – tax evasion.

justbands 12:25 pm 20 May 09

Once again, you need to keep in mind that TA is NOT just for accomodation & has to cover things (for example) like meals, transport & dry cleaning also. It’s a point the linked article conveniently neglects to mention…does a much better job of making people angry that way.

Clown Killer 12:20 pm 20 May 09

The amounts being claimed (according to the News Ltd story anyway) wouldn’t cover interest payments, let alone rates, maintenance etc.

And that is what we refer to as negative gearing.

caf 12:06 pm 20 May 09

The amounts being claimed (according to the News Ltd story anyway) wouldn’t cover interest payments, let alone rates, maintenance etc.

Clown Killer 11:36 am 20 May 09

I still believe that there’s a big difference between providing a reasonable allowance to cover the cost of accommodation and the tax payer fotingthe bill for an asset that you can then sell later on.

In the private sector, I doubt that you’d get the chance. Many businesses, mine included, re-imburse expenses verified against a recipt, instead of just handing out money.

justbands 11:26 am 20 May 09

Some of the comments in the linked artice are funny…

“It’s fraud!” – No, it’s not.
“If it was private industry they’d be sacked!” – No, they wouldn’t.
“This is criminal!” – No, it’s not.

Remember, TA covers more than just a place to rest your head at night. Being away from your normal place of residence (even if staying in a property you are purchasing) really does incur costs.

Storm in a teacup.

VYBerlinaV8_the_one_ 11:23 am 20 May 09

Surely the people who hand out the allowances could work out how many nights per year (including which nights and how many people) accomodation was required, and then put it out to tender. Local hotels (meeting specific minimum requirements) could tender for the business by offering discounts to reduce the cost to the taxpayer, and yet would have guaranteed bookings to operate their business around.

Win/win?

Clown Killer 11:11 am 20 May 09

This has been giving me the sh!ts for years. The travel allowance should be for accommodation not the acquisition of an asset.

qld 10:13 am 20 May 09

Then they complain about other people making money

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