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Do Canberra’s politicians waste your money?

By Steven Bailey - 25 November 2014 26

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I’ve never really understood why the Canberra Liberals don’t change their name. Surely, the Canberra Neoconservatives, the Canberra Monarchists, or just the Canberra Abbott Lovers would be more appropriate. But after briefly perusing The Non-executive members Eighth Assembly Travel Report, recently released by the ACT Legislative Assembly, I suddenly realised: when it comes to spending your own money on you the Canberra Liberals are conservative, but when they spend your money on themselves they do so in quantities which are best described as ‘liberal’.

I think we all appreciate that elected officials need to travel in order to discharge their duties. The question is: are they spending their entitlements for us, or for them?

At a cost of nearly $5,000, Liberal member Alistair Coe enjoyed nine days in the Cook Islands for meetings with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. Resourcefully, Labor’s Chris Bourke managed the same trip for the same cost and brought his artist wife along for the ride.

At a cost of $8,000, big spender Liberal member Vicki Dunne visited the Cayman Islands for an executive committee meeting of the 62nd Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, while Liberal member Steve Doszpot spent a stingy $13,000 at the Westminster seminar in God’s country, the United Kingdom. Liberal member Brendan Smyth made the miserly march to the group’s 50th conference in Johannesburg at a cost of $7,600.

Labor’s Mary Porter exhausted the entire $24,000 of her travel entitlement in one fell swoop to the cent on an excursion to Europe. The purpose of Porter’s trip was to investigate issues relating to voluntary euthanasia. Luckily, Porter’s husband Ian De Landelles, a highly paid ACT public servant, tagged along for the trot at a cost of $9,128. Still on Labor’s side of the camp, Andrew Barr played the twelfth man with economic rationalism by only billing the tax payer a back spin of $600 to see day-two of the Ashes.

Of course, the grand prize for frugality goes to a joint effort of Vicki Dunne, and the gifted and germane Giulia Jones (that’s gifted and germane with a ‘g’ for those who followed Jones’ inspired campaign tactic) for spending $35,000 on a trip to France, Sweden, and Germany. The ‘study’ tour was designed to allow the pair to investigate laws which prohibit people from paying for sex. Both have penned a detailed report of their European tryst – worthy of a self-appointed gold star but unworthy of legislative consideration.

The greatest waste of public funds was undoubtedly a one day trip to Sydney by the entire Liberal Opposition – Jeremy Hanson, Alistair Coe, Steve Doszpot, Vicki Dunne, Giulia Jones, Brendan Smyth, and Andrew Wall for ‘media training’, at a cost of $10,000. Some chose to take their spouse, while others chose to bring along a few staff as well. Notwithstanding that fact that media training comes in handy only when the media pays attention to you, no self-respecting political figure should expect the public to pay for it. Media training is the artless exercise of evading questions, repeating rehearsed lines, hiding the truth, and appearing to be someone you are not. It’s not rocket science – people just want politicians who are themselves.

I sometimes wonder if the Canberra Liberals even want Government. They refuse to heed the advice of senior Liberals to soften their image; they have their wages and their perks; most have never tasted Government; their membership is besieged by a conservatism that is incompatible with the ACT; and their leader is less a leader than a follower whose image sits in the scope of Coe’s cocked rifle – a far more capable politician.

What’s Your opinion?


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26 Responses to
Do Canberra’s politicians waste your money?
Antagonist 12:10 pm 26 Nov 14

Leon said :

Any money spent on improving our politicians’ understanding of how to do their jobs is probably well spent.

Mary Porter and her husband (combined) spent ~$33k. Dunne and Jones $35k. There are two degrees at UC right there, and would have provided a much better learning outcome. The degrees would certainly be much better value for money!

It is a rort. There is no other word for it. This kind of travel/training for the municipality that is the ACT Government is totally inappropriate. It might have been acceptable in the Commonwealth public sector of the past (say 50 years ago) but is no longer OK. It needs to change.

watto23 11:25 am 26 Nov 14

magiccar9 said :

What about all the wonderful overseas holidays… erm I mean ‘business trips’ that Katy is taking in her time as CM? Her most recent visit to China rings a bell.

I think I’d much prefer a minister spending $5K to go to a party meeting than for our Government to spend in excess of $1b on a failed transport solution, or public art, or WiFi… the list continues….

While I have issue with the cost of some public art, I do feel it is something governments are responsible for. Everyone is the first to complain when an area looks like a drab slum.

Same for public wifi. Its a good idea and not a huge waste of money. Governments are there to spend on infrastructure. You may not personally agree we need this infrastructure but many do.

The light rail….. well the cost is outrageous, I’d rather they build the new stadium and the new convention centre and the new pool and still have money left over….

Leon 11:02 am 26 Nov 14

Any money spent on improving our politicians’ understanding of how to do their jobs is probably well spent.

Our politicians don’t always waste money. The widened footpath near the Bus Depot markets (estimated cost $15,000) serves 56 walking and cycling commuters between 7am and 9am.

Here are some cases where better informed politicians would have made different decisions:

Thesiger Court link, Deakin to Yamba Drive. Ranked Canberra’s most cost-effective trunk walking and cycling project, after correcting the errors that led to the Civic Cycle Loop being ranked first. Initially costed at $10,000. Still not built.

Transit lanes along Northbourne Avenue: will cut 5 minutes from bus travel times and cost less than $1 million. Passed over in favour of $300 million Bus Rapid Transit which in turn was passed over in favour of an even less cost-effective $700 million tramway.

Civic Cycle Loop: Ranked first of 200 projects on the assumptions that it would cost $180,000, that half the population of Canberra lives within 500 metres of Mouat St, and that a project is more cost-effective if it costs more money or serves fewer people. Still went ahead after the cost estimate blew out to $6 million. The $600,000 Rudd St section is used by only 38 cyclists from 7am to 9am.

magiccar9 8:14 am 26 Nov 14

What about all the wonderful overseas holidays… erm I mean ‘business trips’ that Katy is taking in her time as CM? Her most recent visit to China rings a bell.

I think I’d much prefer a minister spending $5K to go to a party meeting than for our Government to spend in excess of $1b on a failed transport solution, or public art, or WiFi… the list continues….

miz 7:23 am 26 Nov 14

Yes the sex worker investigation trip was Completely Unnecessary as there was already a full report from only a couple of years earlier that made the trip totally redundant.
I understand that they even contacted the relevant Cth area and were given fulsome advice and information, yet still they went. They should be made to repay the money.

Not that I am at all happy with the present mob either, mind you, given the waste of money on the tram.

At the next election will be looking closely at independents who clearly state their allegiances to the major parties so I make sure I get a truly independent one. I am so sick of the BS.

justin heywood 9:19 pm 25 Nov 14

HiddenDragon said :

Perhaps there’s an inverse relationship between the money that politicians waste directly on themselves, and the money they waste on bigger follies and frolics……

There’s probably some truth in that, but it’s a bit hypocritical to rail against government waste when you’re hitting up ratepayers as hard as some of these people do.

I suspected that Steve might be being a little selective in his OP, so I looked the report up, and it’s true. The Libs are generally the worst offenders, especially since they’re not in government.

Hats off to Rattenbury, who has maintains his virtuous Green credentials with his restraint, personally at least. Steve Doszpot and Vicki Dunne, hang your head. No wonder you lot are still in opposition.

dungfungus 8:48 pm 25 Nov 14

HiddenDragon said :

Perhaps there’s an inverse relationship between the money that politicians waste directly on themselves, and the money they waste on bigger follies and frolics……

You have done everything except name the minister you are talking about.

HiddenDragon 6:30 pm 25 Nov 14

Perhaps there’s an inverse relationship between the money that politicians waste directly on themselves, and the money they waste on bigger follies and frolics……

dungfungus 4:25 pm 25 Nov 14

Maya123 said :

dungfungus said :

Steven Bailey said :

dungfungus said :

So when you are elected Steven, we can expect you to refuse to use tax-payer funding for your fact-finding trips to Europe?

I think you have nailed it in your last paragraph by the way.

Yes, that’s right Dungfungus. I won’t be going to Europe. Thank you for the vote of confidence. 😉

Well, when the light rail is running with the Euro Trams, Constitution Boulevarde (with the Euro traffic lights), a huge public debt and another French art blockbuster at the NGA, all that will be missing in Canberra that Europe doesn’t have is an Eiffel Tower so there is no point in heading there.

Very un-Australian attitude there Dungfungus, talking about “Euro Trams”. Australia has the biggest urban tram network in the world, in Melbourne.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trams_in_Melbourne
A quote: “It is the largest urban tramway network in the world”

So your comment should read, “Well, when the light rail is running with the Australian Trams”.

“Euro Trams” refers to any brand of tram built by European companies – most, if not all, trams in Australia are made by the Euro Tram cartel including ones on the Melbourne network.
I made no reference to urban tramway networks but seeing as you mentioned Melbourne’s as the largest in the world you would also be aware that Melbourne is often referred to as “the Paris of the southern hemisphere”.
Not that Paris is never referred to as “the Melbourne of the northern hemisphere”.
Both Melbourne and Canberra do have similarities though – Melbourne has the Yarra River and Canberra has Lake Burley Griffin. Both of these waterways are “upside down” meaning the mud is on the surface.

Maya123 2:46 pm 25 Nov 14

dungfungus said :

Steven Bailey said :

dungfungus said :

So when you are elected Steven, we can expect you to refuse to use tax-payer funding for your fact-finding trips to Europe?

I think you have nailed it in your last paragraph by the way.

Yes, that’s right Dungfungus. I won’t be going to Europe. Thank you for the vote of confidence. 😉

Well, when the light rail is running with the Euro Trams, Constitution Boulevarde (with the Euro traffic lights), a huge public debt and another French art blockbuster at the NGA, all that will be missing in Canberra that Europe doesn’t have is an Eiffel Tower so there is no point in heading there.

Very un-Australian attitude there Dungfungus, talking about “Euro Trams”. Australia has the biggest urban tram network in the world, in Melbourne.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trams_in_Melbourne
A quote: “It is the largest urban tramway network in the world”

So your comment should read, “Well, when the light rail is running with the Australian Trams”.

dungfungus 2:02 pm 25 Nov 14

Steven Bailey said :

dungfungus said :

So when you are elected Steven, we can expect you to refuse to use tax-payer funding for your fact-finding trips to Europe?

I think you have nailed it in your last paragraph by the way.

Yes, that’s right Dungfungus. I won’t be going to Europe. Thank you for the vote of confidence. 😉

Well, when the light rail is running with the Euro Trams, Constitution Boulevarde (with the Euro traffic lights), a huge public debt and another French art blockbuster at the NGA, all that will be missing in Canberra that Europe doesn’t have is an Eiffel Tower so there is no point in heading there.

Steven Bailey 1:32 pm 25 Nov 14

dungfungus said :

So when you are elected Steven, we can expect you to refuse to use tax-payer funding for your fact-finding trips to Europe?

I think you have nailed it in your last paragraph by the way.

Yes, that’s right Dungfungus. I won’t be going to Europe. Thank you for the vote of confidence. 😉

dungfungus 12:28 pm 25 Nov 14

So when you are elected Steven, we can expect you to refuse to use tax-payer funding for your fact-finding trips to Europe?

I think you have nailed it in your last paragraph by the way.

watto23 10:29 am 25 Nov 14

Tax payer funded travel is in general a rort and its applies to most of them. I did note a Greens senator is heading off for a tour of ebola affected regions in West Africa at his own expense. IMO thats a far more valid reason for a publicly funded trip than the majority of them to lovely tropical islands for chatfests and to Europe.

The Canberra Liberals issue is they are in a socially progressive city and need to be closer to the middle with their social policies in Canberra to gain more votes. Just copying Tony Abbott and saying no to everything, rather than taking any policies from Labor/Greens and turning them into an alternative and potentially better policy (or coming up with their own policy that isn’t totally opposite). They are not going to win elections by opposing all the progressive social policies Labor puts out. They need an alternative that isn’t the exact opposite. Going to Europe to check out anti prostitution laws won’t help them. Also being anti euthanasia and anti marriage equality and anti marijuana is not going to win votes, not in Canberra, where the population is very progressive socially and also very well educated and thus fear campaigns don’t work as well either..

Garfield 10:26 am 25 Nov 14

Steven, do you have any thoughts on the $20000 per MLA per year administrative funding that the parties receive? That’s in addition to the election funding of so many dollars per vote at elections. I think there was also a recent committee report that talked about increasing the dollars per vote from $2 to $8.

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