Former Prime Minister John Howard has billed taxpayers more than $1 million for office expenses and travel since 2013, leading the pack among the nation's ex-leaders who have collectively racked up $3.4 million in recent years.
The spotlight has been shone on politicians' entitlements and allowances in recent weeks, with revelations about Sussan Ley leading Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to announce a new body to watch over spending by our representatives. Further reports about spending by other senior politicians on both sides of the aisle have led to community anger at the extravagant spending at a time when the government is cracking down on Centrelink payments and pensions.
But while current politicians are in hot water, less attention has been paid to the spending by our former representatives. Australia currently has five living, retired former Prime Ministers -- Julia Gillard, Kevin Rudd, John Howard, Bob Hawke and Paul Keating -- who each are entitled to lucrative entitlements. Former PMs are given "a number of facilities at the discretion of the prime minister of the day" and currently include car costs, office costs, telecommunications and travel costs.
The Courier Mail newspaper published a story on Monday about Rudd's expenses and reported he had claimed for personalised stationery in the leadup for his United Nations Secretary General bid. Rudd denied he had used taxpayer money to support his campaign, publishing a response and his own evidence on his website to show "the overall cost to the taxpayer for my office is currently the least of all former Prime Ministers".
The data outlined by Rudd raises issues about how much Australia spends on its former politicians. In the latest disclosure of expenditure on the Department of Finance website (for the period from January to June 2016), it is revealed Howard, the second-longest serving PM, was the biggest spender among former leaders. Howard billed $152,970 in the six-month period, the bulk of which came from $112,434 in office facilities, nearly double that of the next highest amount in the same category (Rudd, on $63,210).
Howard's expenses have consistently remained far higher than other former PMs in recent reporting periods. He spent $112,473 on office facilities from July to December 2015 (next highest was Bob Hawke on $85,747), $106,356 from January to June 2015 (next highest was Rudd on $63,703) and $115,218 from July to December 2014 (next highest was Malcolm Fraser on $93,622). Between January 2013 and June 2016, Howard's six-monthly spending on office facilities has never been below $106,356, while no other former PM has spent more than $93,622 (Fraser, from July-December 2014).
Howard has claimed the most amount among the ex-PMs in six of the last seven disclosure periods.
Rudd's website published the below table, showing total benefits claimed by former PMs since 2013, when he and Gillard began claiming former PM benefits.
Looking back further to expenses from the start of 2013, Howard alone racked up more than one million dollars in claims. Expense reports show that between January 2013 and June 2016, Howard claimed $1,085,000 in expenses and allowances. The next highest amount is Julia Gillard, on $807,000, but $408,304 of that came from one single expense, an office fit out in 2014. Next on the list is Hawke with $566,000.
In total, Australia's ex-PMs have billed taxpayers more than $3.4 million from the start of 2013 to mid-2016.
"As you will see, the total overall cost of my office is comparable to all other former Prime Ministers, except Mr John Howard who is consistently almost double," Rudd wrote on his website.
"It is interesting that the fact that John Howard's total office expenses eclipse any other former Prime Minister remains unreported. Maybe it is because he is not Labor."
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