Australia needs an inquiry into Parliamentary expenses and transparency and reform

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf the calculations that Tony Abbott has claimed over $90 000 in questionable expenses while in Opposition are true (and I don’t make the claim that they are – but clearly someone has gone to the trouble of compiling expenses most would regard as questionable), it’s a matter for some degree of astonishment that the press gallery didn’t bother to look into them while Mr Abbott was engaged on a frenzied pursuit of Peter Slipper and Craig Thomson over alleged misuse of public and union funds respectively.

Just astonishing.

I’m also interested that one journalist wrote today that he had been inclined to see the controversy over wedding expenses and George Brandis’ library purchases as a “storm in a teacup”. Perhaps the professional followers of the political class regard all this as par for the course. It’s difficult to believe otherwise.

Of course, this scandal goes beyond the LNP’s ranks. No one should have been particularly surprised to read that some ALP members’ justifications for overseas “study trips” sound as spurious as those of jetsetting Coalition MPs. Nor should there be great surprise that the ALP’s shadow attorney-general, Mark Dreyfus QC, has been caught out having to repay the expenses associated with a skiing trip.

Less spectacular, but worse still, is the fact that the ALP and Coalition joined forces to exempt much of the spending on Ministerial and Parliamentary expenses from scrutiny.

Tad Tietze has rightly characterised this cesspool as a key moment in a “crisis of political representation”. So remote are the political class from the atrophied social bases of their respective political parties that this sort of reckless and unethical behaviour seems acceptable in their eyes, and the media (with a few notable exceptions) fails to probe the systemic outrage that almost everyone else can see.

Margo Kingston has gone to great lengths to investigate and document Tony Abbott’s expenses, following the claims that the new Prime Minister has many questions to answer:

It’s hard to imagine a bigger test of the integrity and fairness of our democratic institutions than that. Will the press gallery get forensic and press for answers from the PM and action from the authorities? Will the AFP investigate? Will the Finance Department audit his enormous expenses claims while in opposition to search for more rorting?

What we actually need is a no holds barred enquiry. And we need actual reform.

I would question whether “entitlements” for “study tours” should exist at all. It makes a mockery of any form of representation that MPs could suddenly decide that particular “ethnic cultures” or cycling should warrant European trips. If most of us have interests somewhat extraneous to our jobs, and investigation of those interests require travel to Europe, we pay ourselves.

There’s no rationality to any notion that particular bugbears of members and Senators should enable them to do any sort of “study” they wish. Nor, I would suggest, are the multifarious parliamentary delegations to here, there and everywhere the most effective ways of building relationships and assessing comparative public policy.

It’s as if pollies are still living in the land of the long lunch.

No doubt we’ll hear that pollies are paid too little. And that they should get cash instead of “allowances” and “entitlements”.

Well, maybe in comparison to their mates in law and accounting firms, or wherever. But the claim that all these apparently brilliant lawyers are making huge financial sacrifices to represent us, and that we are somehow benefited by their condescension in so doing, is not one I find convincing.

Years ago, research on union democracy found that unions where officials were paid the same or less than their members fostered both better representation and more genuine democracy than those where officials were paid substantially more.

I’m sure there’s a broader lesson there.

Footnote: Incidentally, in terms of the political impact of this scandal – particularly the weddings and the sorts of justifications proffered – this controversy should explode any notion that the LNP somehow gets the “Aussie battler”.

NB: Previous discussion at LP on this thread.


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47 responses to “Australia needs an inquiry into Parliamentary expenses and transparency and reform”

  1. jungney

    Yes. ok. There was a time that I would have supported travel for ALP parliamentarians, and Country Party, even a few Nats and others, on the grounds that travel quite literally broadens the mind. I would have done so on the basis that class and economic inequality could, and ought, to be addressed through mechanisms like parliamentary travel allowances for people who had not previously had the economic opportunity to get out of Oz.

    But that was long ago.

    Pay yer own way.

  2. Gollyblog

    Interesting to watch Q&A last night. As Greg Sheridan and others pointed out corruption in China means the upper echelons of the Communist Party is made up of billionaires and many aunts, uncles etc etc also end up becoming billionaires.

    That we quibble over pennies that are not even close to being a rounding error in the budget is perhaps indicative of just how lucky er are.

  3. Tyro Rex

    Trot out the excuses all you like Gollyblog. China is China. This is Australia, we have supposed democratic representation not a politburo. The LNP spent the last three years in high dudgeon about two parliamentarians’ spending (and one wasn’t even parliamentary expenditure and incurred long before the person concerned entered the parliament) and media was in a froth about every little detail.

    $90,000 is not an insignificant fraud, if fraud it is. Abbott is a liar and possibly a thief of public funds. A Royal Commission into Parliamentary Expenses and Allowances is required. As opposition leader his expenses nearly matched the Prime Minister of the day and he has nowhere near the same commitments or engagements that would justify that.

    No travel should be expended without prior approval of a Parliamentary Comptroller who ensures the travel is a legitimate parliamentary purpose, and who also books and controls all such travel. For all other purposes such as books etc there should be a simple fixed yearly stipend or just part of the salary.

    Anything else is simply ripping off citizens.

  4. Dr_Tad

    Hi Mark

    I should clarify my position. I don’t think that pollies are being especially more self-serving over expenses during the current crisis of representation, but that the crisis of representation itself makes awareness of and anger at what the pollies are doing more able to find expression and further destabilise things.

    In particular, it further makes obvious what is always true in a capitalist society — that the state has interests both separate from and opposed to those of civil society. When representative politics is stable there is an illusion that this is not the case — that the state embodies and carries out some “general” social interest.

    So I’m a bit agnostic as to new and better rules and inquiries, except insofar as they further expose these realities and destabilise politics. The nature of such moves needs to be concretely assessed along the lines of my criteria. The danger is that such rules and inquiries serve to obscure the actual social content of the state.

    But, then, I would say that!

    Tad

  5. Sam

    such rules and inquiries serve to obscure the actual social content of the state.

    What does this mean in English?

  6. Gollyblog

    Tyro Rex:

    “Trot out the excuses all you like Gollyblog.”

    I’m not excusing the behaviour, just putting it in context.

    I think it would be best if pollies were paid a set expenses allowance so that we could avoid these types of pointless dramas.

  7. jules

    That we quibble over pennies that are not even close to being a rounding error in the budget is perhaps indicative of just how lucky er are.

    Its true that some things we take for granted don’t happen in other parts of the world, and can’t because of the corruption. The money just goes into the hands, pockets or bank accounts of powerful corrupt people.

    But if we don’t want to end up like that we have to act over this stuff, cos this is how it starts. You can

  8. jules

    oops.

    …make allowances or try and pretend its not much, but if Abbott’s figures are right by his own standard he shouldn’t be in parliament. Whats the difference between him and Thompson or Slipper? And at what point does accepting free international flights from a mining magnate became a conflict of interest? When you have a policy to lower taxes on said magnate?

    Thats one end of a spectrum and the other is turning a blind eye while bloodthirsty corporate mercenaries international security contractors murder your citizens and you spend millions they’ve paid you oppressing your people.

  9. Russell

    “integrity has no need of rules” said the great albert Camus, but whenever you have easy access to a large pot of money, these things happen, and it’s not a left/right thing. A few months back the Canadian Auditor-General was called in to go through senators expenses after a few too glaring rip-offs.

    Time too tighten the rules, have them enforced by the public servants who deal with the claims, and have claims backed up with extracts from official diaries, have the Auditor General routinely check them etc

  10. paul burns

    All these expenses should be accessible to the public, within a month of enquiry, with no excisions. The saga Margot Kingston had to go through to find this stuff, the unconscionable delays till after the election etc, are extraordinary.
    This is not a minor matter, not a matter of pollies’ expenses, but of their intrinsic honesty and personal integrity which, even allowing for the sleaze of the political gamery, should be absolute requirements for them to hold elected office.

  11. paul burns

    I have to ask this. Apart from when an alleged offence is referred to them, WTF have the AFP to do with this? I’m not stupid; I get things pretty quickly, but I missed something, didn’t I because their involvement in anything but the Slipper matter is beyond me.

  12. Alan

    Australia needs a parliamentary integrity commissioner on the Canadian model. All expenses need to be a matter of public record and the authorisation for them needs to be in a single publicly-available document. This is 2013, those records can be made available online immediately.

    The confidence and supply arrangements the Gillard government signed with the Greens and Independents in 2010 called for an integrity commissioner but the government never got round to acting on it. There were a number of committee reports that recommended further committee reports. The Abbot government could perhaps convene a committee to meet at the next LNP wedding held in an exotic location.

  13. Graham Bell

    I believe it is the duty of each parliamentarian on at least one overseas trip during a term …. but …. only as a member of an official delegation with a rigorous daily program imposed on them from right outside their own cosy circle …. and, of course, with real penalties for being AWOL from a meeting or an event and for failing to produce a concise, readable, timely and credible report soon after the trip.

    If it is for some personal enjoyment at the cost of it is payed for by stealing from the taxpaying public …. then treat it like any other stealing …. and send the culprit to jail.

    By way of contrast: many, many months ago, Senator John Hogg came to this part of The Bush. He mentioned he had been on a parliamentary trip that included Tunisia. That really sparked my interest. I asked him if he had a report. Yes but not on him (why would he? he was doing his duty in a little town on that day)…. it soon turned up in the post. It just goes to show, there are some parliamentarians who take their job seriously and who do the right thing with their taxpayer funded travel

  14. Dr_Tad

    Sam @ 5:

    What does this mean in English?

    What I said just above it — that the state’s interests are opposed to those of civil society (even though, of course, without a civil society and economy on which it be founded, the state could not exist in the first place).

    It’s an important insight (I’ve cribbed it from the young Marx) because it argues against the commonly held view that the social content of the state is to organise the general interests of the civil society on which it is founded. The general interest view suggests that if we just get the right representatives (in a correct mix) of social groups within society into the state we’ll have a state that really governs “for everyone”. I think the general interest view is an illusion that is increasingly made apparent by the current crisis of Australian politics.

  15. paul burns

    Have finally sorted out the AFP involvement. They can release requested FOI documents from the Department of Finance on Abbott’s expenses, but only if Abbott gives his permission. I know I’m not the only person who read that who thought it was really, really strange.
    So, if in reviewing the documents from the Dept. of Finance, the AFP thinks a crime might have been committed, are they obliged to begin an investigation? That might have been why I couldn’t get it at first. Or have I got it wrong. Kafka-esque, the whole thing.

  16. Katz

    There is a shifting dividing line, constantly being renegotiated in public conversations.

    This dividing line marks off those groups and interests who, it is believed, perform their roles better if they are given freedom of action from those groups who perform their roles better if they are subject to rules of compliance. The former groups, it is believed, perform better if they are paid more. The latter groups, it is believed, will continue to work only if they are driven by need.

    Politicians appear to think that they belong to the former category. Yet, their careers as politicians depend upon defeating members of their own party for incumbency in safe seats. Those politicians condemned to marginal seats usually have brief careers not determined by their own innate qualities but rather by the impersonal logic of the electoral cycle.

    Thus, politicians appear to suffer from a profound misunderstanding of the nature of their profession.

  17. Chris

    The guidelines for the politicians seem to be rather vague. Can I suggest that a reasonable guideline would be that an expense be allowed if the ATO would have allowed it as a work related expense tax deduction. They have pretty reasonable tests and ways of splitting personal from work expenses in a single trip.

    I do agree with comments above about needing more transparency. This comes back to a common theme where I believe that the government by default should publish information it generates in a timely and easily accessible manner unless there is a good reason not do so – eg the default should be always to publish and an argument has to be made for that not to happen, rather than the other way around.

  18. wpd

    While Australia may need an inquiry into Parliamentary expenses, I doubt that this current uproar will have any long-term political legs. In my (limited) experience, there is a culture of ‘entitlement’ that is common to all sides of the ‘political divide’. If Labor decided to go in hard, they would be exposed as hypocrites and would soon lose any momentum because they’ve been into the trough as well. Drefus is a good example. And ‘administrative errors’ – valid as they might be – simply won’t wash.

    Besides, I suspect that Abbott/Credlin will have any number of distractions in the pipeline which will see this ‘issue’ confined to an early grave. They’ve been successful because they played ‘rough’. Why change now?

  19. Gollyblog

    Jules:

    And at what point does accepting free international flights from a mining magnate became a conflict of interest? When you have a policy to lower taxes on said magnate?

    So long as all gifts are declared I don’t have a problem with them. Who could possibly object to Clive Palmer taking Mr Rabbit and his colleagues on a voyage on Titanic Mk II 😉

    Dr Tad:

    … that the state’s interests are opposed to those of civil society

    False for many reasons including:

    (1) There are no simplistic and unimpeachable Iron Laws such as these in the real world;
    (2) such grandiose claims are unfalsifiable and invariably reflect nothing more than the ideological prejudices of whoever makes them; and
    (3) the state and civil society are not social actors; they dot have a purpose or an agenda. Look up the problem of reification in a good political science or sociology book/ website for further details.

  20. Dr_Tad

    Gollyblog @19:

    (1) Not an iron law, just my theoretical explanation (cribbed, as I say, from Marx).

    (2) The same can be said of less grandiose claims — or even a reticence to make clear claims. I think it’d be better for you to argue why I’m wrong than to dismiss me as “ideological” on the basis of an implicit “non-ideological” view of your own.

    (3) The last time I looked both the state and civil society were made up of collectives of people who had definite social relationships with each other ,as well as with others. Not sure how this fits with claims I am engaging in “reification” or creating out of whole cloth the ability of these groups of people to be “social actors”.

    (3)

  21. jules

    The/any state’s primary interest is the ongoing existence of said state. Everything else is secondary to that including the interests of civil society.

  22. Katz

    But it is a category error to mistake expense account rorters with major league kleptocrats whose final career move is to do a runner to a country without extradition treaties but with access to numbered bank accounts.

    Australian expense account rorters simply want to retire to a slightly more upmarket sea change condo where they can brag about their small accomplishments at the local bowlo. Hardly the Shah of Iran.

    Small beer characterized by pathetically petty cupidity.

  23. Brian

    According to the 7.30 Report tonight, all pedalling is “deep community engagement”.

    Alan Fels was interviewed as co-author of a Review of Parliamentary Entitlements Committee Report completed in 2010 but not implemented. It seems a number of departments are involved, a situation that requires rationalisation.

    Nick Xenophon had some handy suggestions, including the notion that mistakes should be punished by paying back double the amount.

  24. Graham Bell

    Paul Burns @ 15:
    No, you haven’t got it all wrong – except in your choice of one word to describe it – not Kafkaesque, I suggest the other “K” word : korruption.

    Katz @ 22:
    Brilliant! Concise! Accurate! Your comment here should be compulsory reading for all high-school student throughout Australia! Your comment @ 16 was good too.

    wpd @ 18:
    You have hit on a serious major flaw in Australian politics, one that comes from parliaments being stacked full of lawyers raised in our primitive adversarial system: politicians here are terrified of admitting they have been – or done – wrong. If Australia was a representative democracy and Labor did go in hard on the rorts, they would not be condemned as hypocrites by the voters. Rather they would be cheered because they had seen the error of their ways and did something effective to change a bad situation; no every voter here conforms to the media-moguls’ stereotype of them being as dumb as the proverbial ****.

    During the last election campaign, Joe Hockey made an attack on “entitlement” – a crystal-clear warning to war and peacekeeping veterans

  25. Graham Bell

    (confound it – accidently sent before correcting – again).
    wpd @ 18 (continues):
    Joe Hockey’s warnings about “entitlement” obviously omitted his big business and political acquaintances, on both sides of the mainstream political fence.

    Be optimistic: this issue maybe the trickle that starts eroding the earthworks dam built up by decades of the poorly controlled misuse of power, of public assets, of failed checks-&-balances. Not quite an Arab Spring but a long-overdue set of necessary reforms and revis….Hell no, let’s go for an Arab Spring and be done with it!

    Chris @ 17:
    The guidelines aren’t just vague, they are downright slippery. I agree with John Hewson when he called, the other day, for an overhaul of the guidelines.

    Gollyblog @ 19:
    Which wharf? 🙂

  26. Terry2

    I have no time for those who say that the amounts involved are trivial and we should ignore the whole thing and get on with the real business of government.
    If the rules are so vague that a politician cannot determine whether personal expenditure is recoverable from the taxpayer or if those charged with checking and verifying that expenditure is genuine do not have the skill or authority to do their job properly, then we need to fix the system; it’s not that hard.
    Tony Abbott’s involvement in sporting events was for his own image building and for the benefit of the Liberal party. In no sense should the taxpayer be asked to meet his expenses.

  27. Snorky

    Where are all these public servants checking on politicians’ expense claims going to come from, given the Government’s avowed intention to cut 12,000 of them?

  28. Norm

    The public servants too are rorting the system. The NSW Libs recently upped the credit card limit of entitled officers from 5 to 25 grand inviting trouble given whistleblower revealed “mistakes” including the regular cc purchase of fuel for cars and booking double accommodation and meals for the exec’s friend. And so it goes…

  29. zorronsky

    So Abbott’s election campaign funding is paid for by ….well in his own words …YOU!

  30. Katz

    Yes. It would be the mark of a sound civil society were these rorters to be ridiculed mercilessly and laughed out of public life.

  31. Sam

    This is a problem that is easily solved. Make them pay out of their own pockets and then ask to be reimbursed. An independent public servant makes the decisions based on clear criteria of what is a reimbursable expense. The onus will be on the claimant to supply the necessary documentation. All expense claims and documents to be published on the internet.

    This person will need cojones because they will be screamed at but such people do exist.

  32. Mk50 of Brisbane

    Related to the travel expenses of federal MP’s, does anyone here have any answers to the astonishing press release from the Elysee Palace?
    The Elysée notes that the French President notes that he met Mr Rudd who is on a ‘private trip in Europe’ and discussed bilateral relations including the Syrian tragedy and the Australian-French cooperation on south Pacific issues and the importance of preserving the memory of Australian soldiers who died on French soil in World War I. Back-bench MP Rudd has zero responsibilities for the routine work of the Australian Commonwealth War Graves Commission, so this discussion may have been improper dependng on what was said.

    “The meeting with Hollande raises questions:
    1. why did Hollande agree to meet with back-bencher even though he is a former prime minister?
    2. what was the real purpose of the meeting?
    3. is Kevin Rudd planning to meet other heads of state and government and if so why, and under whose authority?
    4. is this a purely private trip, or is the taxpayer providing funding and other assistance, including via our Embassies? If so what is he claiming, and how is this proper?
    5. how does a French President meeting a defeated prime minister advance bilateral relations – surely it is more likely to harm bilateral relations, for the French President has formally met a former Labor leader before any Australian Government Minister. Indeed, was the Australian Government even informed of this visit and its agenda? If not, why not?
    6. Is this the start of Rudd’s latest ALP leadership destabilisation campaign?”

    This is a serious incident and one by which a back-bencher should not ever potentially embarrass whoever is to be his new leader. I am not trying to score points here, I would honestly like the views of the sensible commentators here as to what the hell Rudd thinks he is up to, and how this may destabilise Her Majesty’s Opposition. Our system or governance cannot afford this sort of thing again.

  33. paul burns

    32,
    IMHO, bearing in mind the subject of this thread, and Mark’s comment on another thread about going off topic etc, you are trying to be a right wing troll because you don’t like the Abbott Government being subjected to critical scrutiny, which, God knows, it gets very little of.
    Don’t feed the troll is my answer to

    the astonishing release from the Elysee Palace.

    If I had a darker vision of humankind I’d think you belonged to the Liberal Party or were a Coalition staffer.

    [I’ve popped the original @32 back into the mod bin. My inclination is to redact it, but don’t have time to think. Have to go to work – BB]

  34. wpd

    A spokeswoman for Mr Rudd yesterday confirmed he “paid a courtesy call on the French President”. She said the Australian ambassador and Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop had been briefed.”
    Mr Rudd is on a private visit and is not drawing on any parliamentary entitlements on this trip,” the spokeswoman said.

    – See more at: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/policy/citizen-rudd-pays-a-visit-to-the-palace/story-fn59nm2j-1226735051547?sv=5b0a63baffd103d0cb9b21c3c4ce58cc#sthash.kloqhrEr.dpuf

    What’s to see? Nothing to do with the topic at hand.

  35. aidan

    While Australia may need an inquiry into Parliamentary expenses, I doubt that this current uproar will have any long-term political legs. In my (limited) experience, there is a culture of ‘entitlement’ that is common to all sides of the ‘political divide’. If Labor decided to go in hard, they would be exposed as hypocrites and would soon lose any momentum because they’ve been into the trough as well. Drefus is a good example. And ‘administrative errors’ – valid as they might be – simply won’t wash.

    A similar situation in the UK, with both sides infringing, was thoroughly explored in the press. It didn’t require one side of politics to “go hard”. The press made the running.

    How quaint.

  36. Sam

    Mr Rudd is on a private visit and is not drawing on any parliamentary entitlements on this trip,” the spokeswoman said.

    Does Rudd now get the largesse handed out to ex PMs (the largest user, by far is John Howard) including foreign travel or does he have to leave parliament to get it?

  37. paul burns

    Re a proposed enquiry. I notice at the end of the Jack Waterford article – the version I read on line anyway – there was a poll that suggested a Parliamentary adviser and Independent authority should control Parliamentary claims. For reasons Mark has touched on in the OP this probably won’t happen. But, on the of-chance our MSM suddenly decide the Abbott government and/or our parliamentarians in general can’t be trusted to limit dipping into the public purse for their own benefit, here are some suggestions re an enquiry.
    (Though I must first remark if politicians can’t be trusted to be honest about their expenses how can they be trusted to manage public money?)
    Three retired politicians one from the Coalition, one from the Greens and one from the ALP should be appointed as advisers to the enquiry. (say, Hewson, Brown and Crean – the electorate would think them all eminently trustworthy and non-controversial). The enquiry should be headed by some-one eminent from one of the state anti-corruption bodies. It should have among its top staff two forensic accountants from two of the state Fraud Squads, and some-one from the Auditor-Generals, as well as a Counsel assisting. Plus the necessary subsidiary staff.
    It should be open to the public.
    The AFP should be at arm’s length from it because if there are any serious infringements they would be responsible for prosecuting them.
    Of course, nothing like this will happen, but if we lived in an ideal world …

  38. Graham Bell

    Mk50 of Brisvagus @ 32 and Paul Burns @ 33:
    If M. Hollande could spare a few minutes of his precious time to meet with a visitor for another democratically-elected parliament, why not? Why should there be anything suspicious in this – any more than any other of our parliamentarians meeting with corporate masterminds or with the heads of international bodies?

    Mk50, surely you are not underestimating the professional skills of French intelligence analysts or of staff within the Elsysee Palace, are you? Surely you are not suggesting that the French play entirely by OUR rules, are you? Heck, if they had done that, the whole of France would have been privatized and turned into a colony of BurkinoFaso by now.

    ((B.B.: please allow 32 to stand; don’t agree with it at all but it does add to the breadth of discussion. G.B.)).

    Norm @ 28:
    My oath. One rare time that sort of rorting bubbled to the surface was back in the ‘Seventies when the National Employment and Training Scheme (N.E.A.T.) was severely rorted by public servants, mainly senior ones from what I gather. N.E.A.T. was a worthwhile amalgamation of several programs including the re-training of displaced forestry workers, of bankrupt dairy farmers, of the permanently injured, of the disabled and of a lot of others who had fallen through the cracks. Many of those for whom the scheme was targeted missed out – yet relatives and friends of the offenders were plonked into Michael-Mouse (TM?) courses at great public expense. So far as I know, no public servant was ever investigated – let alone charged and convicted – over these blatant rorts nor was any of their pelf ever recovered. When the crackdown did come, the rorters were left untouched yet the genuine participants in the N.E.A.T. Scheme were scrutinized unmercifully and pursued for every possible cent. A touch of irony: the rate of survival living allowance for N.E.A.T. participants was tied to the rate of salaries for parliamentarians and high court judges.

    Seems not much has changed since then.

  39. Graham Bell

    PB @ 39:
    I second that motion!

    Excellent solution ….

  40. Patrickb

    @18
    Indeed, witness Abbott wrapping himself in the flag wrt to compensation for people affected by the Bali bombings. This seems like a very strange decision, it’s a small amount of compo for events that happened 10 years ago. I mean, what are people expected to do with it, build a monument? And normally you don’t compensate the dead, although relatives may sue in negligence for psychological injury and the like. I think this is Abbott aping Howard. JWH was at 911, Tone was a BB(2).

  41. Some Random Dude

    If the calculations that Tony Abbott has claimed over $90 000 in questionable expenses while in Opposition are true …

    .. then Mr Rabbit will be quite the felonious monk (somewhat apropos since it is the jazz pianist’s birthday today).

  42. drsusancalvin

    And it continues…. Confession is good for the soul. Not sure if Pentecostal born again Christian Scott Morrison chose Ray Hadley wisely. Perhaps if he is looking to keep the seal of the confessional intact he should ask Tony for the name of a Jesuit priest.

  43. Graham Bell

    Did anyone else see the enlightening interview with Peter Slipper on ABC-TV this morning?

  44. drsusancalvin

    Slipper is clearly a reader of IA, and referred to “Ashbygate” often. Cassidy seemed sympathetic, but he drew a distinction later in the show when the “double standard” was again raised. The referral to the Feds, and the alleged chopping up of the cab charges makes it slightly (sufficiently?) different to the other entitlement payments. It is sad to see a life so eviscerated whether by fate or design. He seems surprisingly clear minded. Poor man needs a miracle, or a not guilty verdict / charges dismissed, a quick “no” on the Ashby appeal, Harmers to pay costs as ordered, and a giant defo action against the Tele. Maybe a money poultice might ease the pain. Speaking of the Tele and defo, does anyone know how much the Sunday Tele paid Ms Hanson out for those nude photos? This doesn’t have details but is a reminder of just how silly editors can be.

  45. Ronson Dalby

    Yep, best not to sit with the plebs at an airport ’cause you might actually have to converse with them:

    “Hopefully you’ve all signed up to the [Qantas] chairman’s lounge – you are allowed to do it. My other advice is to declare it in your member’s interests.”

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-10-15/burke-welcomes-new-mps-to-parliament-house/5023306