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Daft Coalition economic policies 6: Endorsing sleazy behaviour & lying about it

It is difficult to tackle corporate criminals and dishonest behaviour generally when you yourself lie over expense accounts.  The hypocrisy is too raw. PM Tony Abbott has spent $23,000 of taxpayer money attending sporting events in recent years.  His argument? Any sort of travel is “business-related” since you meet people.  That the Labor Party is equally culpable of such dishonest behaviour is no reason for the Coalition to think it is OK.

The direct costs of such behaviour are bad enough but the indirect demonstration effects are worse.  What is the motive for honesty when well-paid politicians feel entitled to cheat on allowances and then to lie about it? Reduced faith in political leadership – already at a rock-bottom low in Australia – is an additional indirect social cost. For politics to work citizens should have some minimal level of trust in politicians.

6 comments to Daft Coalition economic policies 6: Endorsing sleazy behaviour & lying about it

  • rog

    Costs incurred while undertaking a hobby are hardly a business expense and to claim these shows a general lack of business principles. A bad precedent for the party for “small business”.

  • Forrest Casey

    Your post on this issue is indistinguishable from the raft of other blog commentary and serves only to make you seem unthinking. Try these thoughts:
    1. Politicians need to be free to move about, meet, and be in contact with lots of people in a wide variety of contexts. Not all politicians will have the same interests or contact groups, but one would hope that across the spectrum of a political party a large number of contacts take place, and take place in a wide variety of contexts.
    2. The amounts of money involved are chump change. This situation on top of the fact that senior political leaders (Cabinet and Shadow Cabinet level)are not richly remunerated (hey, forget the private sector, compare university Vice Chancellors) and most have limited capacity to self fund much travel.
    3. Even if the rules are subsequently and unwisely changed further to limit politician’s’ travel, it is still not “dishonest” to have behaved within the norms that had previously existed.
    4. There are a handful of members of both the ALP and Liberals who have a strong sense of social obligation and who are well know for being generous with their personal time to attend community events, even the menial non-vote gaining functions. Ironically, it happens that Abbott is one of them. Again, this fact makes your comments look like thoughtless spite.
    5. Now, you are an economist, let me suggest an alternative question that you might be the topic for your blog. Would it be preferable (a) to continue with the existing travel expenses regime or (b) introduce a new set of rules that cover every possible contingency and entail comprehensive reporting of travel details both before and after travel along with a suitably sized bureaucracy to monitor and enforce compliance of said rules, and when necessary suggest appropriate changes to the rules along with recommendations for additional staff to permit improved monitoring and enforcement?

  • Jim Rose

    But what do MPs do? That decides whether going to weddings is official business.

  • Chris

    Hi Harry,
    Is “Forrest Casey” a pseudonym? I wonder who he (?) really is.
    Point 5 in ‘his’ reply omits at least one alternative – (c) require all politicians to pay for all so-called work-related expenses themselves and then submit receipts for the expenses to Treasury for adjudication and possible reimbursement. The claims will be assessed for compliance with existing criteria by suitably qualified Treasury staff before being paid.
    The existing criteria are clear to a reasonable person. They are not being applied consistently or equitably.

  • Forrest Casey

    Hey Chris,
    The point is this: if Harry’s blog is economics then why not discuss this issue in economic terms,.i.e. discuss alternative administration and enforcement regimes along with their costs and benefits. If after analysis/consideration these seem worthwhile measures (though I doubt it) then that’s fine by me – I am not pushing a political point of view.

    It is easy to take the cheap shots at politicians. Indeed you can easily take cheap shots at anyone in the public eye, and there are lots of bloggers out there who get a warm sense of moral superiority out of such behavior. Saying nasty things about people with whom we do not personally engage is too easy. It is sad to see Harry lapse into such poor habits – and in more than one of his recent blog posts.

  • rog

    The problem is that on more than one occasion govt has been recommended a solution yet continues on the well worn path. Perhaps it’s a distraction from policy issues. MPs are conflicted by remuneration.

    http://www.smh.com.au/national/mps-voice-concerns-on-cashing-entitlements-20101123-185qy.html

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