Politicians and their expense claims

With Sussan Ley, the federal health minister, now the subject of an internal investigation over misusing taxpayers’ funds in excessive and dubious expense claims, it is time to recognise that a ministerial scalp and a tightening of the rules will not work. It hasn’t worked before and it will continue to not work unless a different approach is taken.

This is how to do it: each parliamentarian (cabinet members, ministers, shadow ministers and backbenchers) should be granted a fixed allowance. The allowance should be on a sliding scale, backbenchers at the lowest level. The aggregate value of all such allowances should be no more than the current annual claims for travel, accommodation and office expenses of all parliamentarians. In fact, the aggregate should be set at around 80% of the current actual expense claims. Each parliamentarian would then be free to use that allowance as they see fit in fulfilling their duties. Expenses would be deductible for tax. Any amount not used by the end of the year could be kept by the parliamentarian and taxed as personal income.

That would result in a much more efficient use of taxpayers’ money and the whole concept of expense claims would disappear.