A review into the parliamentary entitlements system has recommended an overhaul of the Comcar system, a ban on politicians using "family reunion" provisions to get cheap holidays, and explicitly banning the use of helicopters for short trips.
The review, "An Independent Parliamentary Entitlements System," was released on Wednesday. Prompted by revelations that MP Bronwyn Bishop had used taxpayer-funded helicopters to attend party fundraiser events, the 200-page review makes 36 recommendations.
Minister for Finance, Matthias Cormann, said in a statement "the Government supports all the recommendations in principle and will now commence work on implementation."
"Implementation of a number of recommendations will involve further work by the Remuneration Tribunal, which the Government will ask the Tribunal to commence forthwith."
The review recommends tightening up provisions around expenses and workplace costs, giving politicians more guidance around what expenses can and cannot be claimed, and making it easier for politicians to make minor maintenance of their offices.
Also recommended is a review of the expenses system during every parliamentary term, as well as reducing the deadline for lodging of travel allowances and expenses from 60 days to 30 days.
Of most interest to taxpayers, however, will be the changes recommended around travel allowances, allowances for politicians' families to travel, and car expenses. The Comcar system, which shuttles politicians around in private cars, will be limited strictly to work-related journeys, with "journeys which are primarily personal" now prohibited. The system will also be reviewed "with a view to obtaining better value for money."
An allowance of $10 per night for spouses accompanying ministers on travel will be abolished, while restrictions on the controversial "family reunion" provisions will be tightened. The provision, which allows three inter-state business class return fares each year for a politician's spouse or children, have come under fire in recent times after politicians were accused of using the provision to bring their family to idyllic holiday destinations.
The review recommends "prohibiting use of the provisions to undertake an inter-state family holiday."
One recommendation also specifically prohibits the use of helicopters for short distance travel except for "compelling reasons," and that all charter transport "must constitute value for money."
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