Canberra home ownership for visiting members of parliament

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.


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23 Responses to Canberra home ownership for visiting members of parliament
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NickD NickD 8:57 pm 20 May 09

Most politicians share rented houses, which tends to suggest that they’re not getting too much TA. Some are doubtlessly abusing the system (The Chaser had ambushed Malcolm Turnbull a few years ago claiming that he was ‘renting’ a house off his wife using his TA) but it’s not that much money – thankfully.

canberra bureaucrat canberra bureaucrat 8:29 pm 20 May 09

agree with #4

Storm in a teacup

lod lod 7:54 pm 20 May 09

There’s two issues here.

1. Is the travel allowance reasonable?
2. Is it fair to put the travel allowance towards a personal property.

A room in the Hyatt starts at $235. A room in Rydges Capital Hill starts at $200.
So $215 for room + food + washing etc. doesn’t seem too extravagant.

Given that $215 per day is reasonable why does it matter if it goes towards a personal asset?
The public purse looses $215 either way but by buying a house you get happier parliamentarians with a nicer place to go back to.

IF there were allegations of pollies extending their stay in Canberra purely to get more travel allowance then I can see a problem. However I haven’t seen anyone suggesting that.

ChrisinTurner ChrisinTurner 5:24 pm 20 May 09

Be careful before you decide to only reimburse receipts for accommodation and meals etc. It could very easily result in all our pollies staying 5 star and costing us a fortune.

YapYapYap YapYapYap 3:30 pm 20 May 09

Joe Hockey was quizzed on this issue at the Press Club today, and squirmed his away out of a direct answer, other than noting that he spends 3o weeks a year in Canberra (ie receiving $32,250 pa in TA). That would see off the interest on a $645,000 loan. Mind you that isn’t the point; TA isn’t provided to anyone so hey can buy a house; its to cover reasonable expenses – and Hockey for one doesn’t think an increase in the minimum wage is justified in the current economic climate, even though it takes two days on minimum wages to earn what politicians get paid a day as a top-up to their minimum salary of $132,530.

This is nothing short of snouts in the trough!

ps In past times public servants received what was called Review TA – for periods exceeding 30 days (i think) away from home. It was paid at a much lower rate than normal TA. Does this still happen, and does anyone know the current rate if it does?

p1 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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_they_all_copy VYBerlinaV8_the_one_they_all_copy 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 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 qld 10:13 am 20 May 09

Then they complain about other people making money

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