There’s no denying it: this is a tough spot for Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. Actually, it’s a tough call for all politicians at the moment.
To spend or not to spend? That is the question.
After former Health Minister Sussan Ley publicly fell on sword and tendered her resignation last week, politicians across the country are panicking about the validity of their tax-payer funded expense claims.
Panicking, because it seems that the people of Australia are FINALLY fed up with the entitled attitude our elected leaders appear to have when it comes to spending from our collective coffers.
As just one of millions of lowly constituents, I understand that our politicians need to mingle. They need to attend sporting events, and show up at art exhibitions, and fly business class on cross-country jaunts, and put their bums on seats at various launches and lunches.
I get it. This is where they build and develop relationships with our captains of industry. (God forbid they fly cabin class and actually mingle with the people they represent, but I digress!)
I also can appreciate that their public and private lives intersect somewhat. If, say, Steve Ciobo attends an AFL match and pays for himself as a private citizen, he’s still representing his seat and his party and as such he’s kind of ‘on the clock’. He can’t rip through the beer and start chanting from his seat under a cloak of anonymity like everyone else.
In saying that… while I understand the need for politicians to attend these events, I don’t understand why they need to fly across the country business class at a cost of $5k simply to watch the cricket. Or why they need to charter expensive private flights to get around; Bob Katter has a passable excuse, but the rest of them can flight commercial readily enough.
But back to Jules, who was all set to go to the Portsea Polo match over the weekend – an event that cost taxpayers $2,700 for her to attend last year.
She quietly told event organisers on Friday night that she wouldn’t be attending, because the Japanese Prime Minister was visiting Sydney. The timing was suspect, considering Ley had resigned in the wake of the spending scandal hours earlier.
But how would the people have reacted if she actually went? If she blew another few grand to air kiss at the polo this weekend, people would have been baying for blood.
One thing seems certain: our politicians are finally starting to get the message that we don’t like it when they spend federal dollars recklessly.
Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, journalists are going to be trawling loads more expense reports – and I suspect Ley’s won’t be the only head to roll.