POLITICS

New Year's Function 'Miserably Fails The Pub Test'

Are fireworks on the harbour an "official function" or not?

10/01/2017 9:06 AM AEDT | Updated 17/01/2017 1:18 PM AEDT

CANBERRA – The so-called 'pub test' – of what the general public might see as being fair and reasonable is certainly getting a run around in light of the latest travel entitlements controversies.

The public mood for politicians spending any taxpayers' dollars is truly being tested with Sussan Ley forced to stand aside as health minister Monday, pending an investigation into several years of travel to the Gold Coast.

That's including to spend New Year's Eve with the prominent Queensland businesswoman and Liberal Party donor Sarina Russo.

But now a particular case has been found, originally reported by SBS News, which according to crossbench Senator Nick Xenophon, "miserably" fails the public sniff test.

In fact, the influential senator reckons it would be "laughed out of the pub".

Four Cabinet ministers -- Peter Dutton, George Brandis, Mitch Fifield and Simon Birmingham -- have been found charging taxpayers thousands of dollars while attending the Prime Minister's 2015 New Year's Eve party at Kirribilli House on Sydney Harbour, just months after Malcolm Turnbull toppled Tony Abbott.

Despite the best view of Sydney's fireworks, champagne and oysters, the bash was regarded as an "official function" and the four Ministers who billed the taxpayer for travel are defending the spend on flights, COMCAR costs and travel allowance. Although, the Education Minister only charged for a single $62.53 cab ride.

The Huffington Post Australia has statements from all four ministers' office saying the event was an "official function".

So if the Kirribilli event WAS an official function and the senior politicians truly attended Turnbull's event in their capacity as a minister, the public spend would be regarded as "within the rules" for travel entitlements.

The interesting thing is that another 18 ministers did NOT claim any expenses for attending the 2015 bash.

So why did the 18 not claim public expenses?

Senator Xenophon wants to re-introduce legislation he first drafted in 2015 to overhaul rules about politician expenses. He's told the ABC that claiming money for the event is laughable and "why so many Australians hate so many politicians".

"This miserably fails the pub test," he told the AM program. "In fact, it would be laughed out of the pub with this sort of claim.

"Maybe they thought that watching fireworks on NYE would be instructive for the job?'

The South Australian wants real time disclosures and harsher penalties for breaches of the entitlement rules, perhaps paying back four times the amount claimed.

"It may well be within the rules, but the rules need to change. They need to be reformed."

"If you had real time disclosures, people would find out every month how their money was spent by politicians using these entitlements."

HuffPost Australia has contacted the Prime Minister's office and has been advised that Turnbull is in meetings Tuesday.


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