It’s tax time, friends! Yes, the glorious season where we, as a nation, go “what, that’s all I made last year? Oh god, where are my receipts? Alright, this year I’m keeping up to date with my accounts, honest, I’m doing a spreadsheet every week” and/or “wait a second, if I’m paying this in tax then why the hell am I getting so many service cuts in everything?”
And as we do go through that annual dance of paperwork, one former and one current federal political have called out politicians for using the tax period to plonk payments into their own pockets: specifically, their electoral allowance which is meant to cover local duties and is under no obligation to be spent thusly.
“MPs are well paid. The electoral allowance is money you should spend in your electorate, not pad your bank account,” said ex-senator Derryn Hinch to the SMH, “This stuff’s been hidden but there’s a scandal there.”
Current Tasmanian independent MP Andrew Wilkie added “I suspect some spend none of it and suddenly you’ve got an extra $32,000 in income. It’s a misuse of the allowance.”
And look, It’s easy to bash pollies. We know they’re busy people with a lot on their mind.
That would explain why they so often do things like claim travel allowances to go to weddings and to check out investment properties and to attend polo matches or attend far-right rallies in states you don’t represent and thinking it’s perfectly normal to bill taxpayers for over one thousand dollars a month on home internet, and only go “oh, whoops, totally missed that, I’ll be paying that back obviously just like I always intended to do” when the media and public point it out.
Oh, those adorably forgetful silly billies!
And under the current system that’s far from easy to do.
In fact, it’s almost like the politicians which benefit from the opacity of the reporting protocols and the time lag between claiming expenses and actually making that information part of the public record have some sort of motivation to maintain said system and stymie any change that might make it more transparent and accountable. Weird, eh?
Anyway: here’s an idea. Make polls do what we have to do: scrape the entitlements altogether and start making them claim back all their legitimate expenses.
After all, we’re required to justify every cent that we want to claw back from the ATO each year. If it’s so damn easy and reasonable to expect it of us, why do our representatives get a free ride?
After all, if pollies had to stump up for their own flights and then wait for the bureaucracy to reimburse them they might be a little less forgetful about whether this was for an official trip or a colleague’s 50th.