Bleats

The Minister For Housing Wants To Give Homelessness A 'Positive Spin' So Start Peddling, Mate

Let's rebrand it "agile accomodation"!

You know, in this febrile political environment, it’s so easy to focus on the negative.

And Luke Howarth, your federal Assistant Housing Minister and newly announced Minister for Homelessness, thinks that all you people are making a huge song and dance about Australia’s recent jump in the number of people living in unsafe and insecure accommodation and not focussing on all the people who aren’t sleeping rough, for which he seems to think he’s getting inadequate credit.

“We have 99.5% of our Australians… homed and living in safe place,” he pointed out on Radio National.

“There’s half a per cent of the population that isn’t… I want to put a positive spin on it as well and not just say Australia’s in a housing crisis when it affects a very, very small percentage of the population.”

Sure, it’s not what everyone in the homelessness sector thinks, or what Lords Mayor around the country are saying with regard the increase in people sleeping rough in our cities.

Indeed, Australia has a 14 per cent increase in homelessness between the 2011 and 2016 census, but Howarth has explained that this is apparently “in line with population growth”.

And that makes sense because… wait, what?

If that’s the case, and the population is growing 14 per cent faster than they can be accommodated in the space of five years, isn’t that the literal definition of a housing crisis?

You know, the sort of thing that would unambiguously be the responsibility of the Minister For Homelessness?

Anyway, all those mayors and academics and homelessness workers are just being negative nellies.

Not like Luke Howarth, Positive Spin Doctor.

Barnaby Joyce Reckons Pollies Should Be Pocketing More Of Your Money And Look, We Beg To Differ

When you give a mate a fiddy to get your round in, you're cool with them keeping the change, right?

You may recall that there’s a nice little rort going where MPs and senators get an annual electoral allowance to cover their costs in getting out and about in their electorates, and that if that money ($32,000 for most electorates, $46,000 for the big rural ones) doesn’t get spent then it goes into pollie’s pocket.

Not to be confused with Polly Pocket, who has long advocated for greater transparency in politics.

And some unkind observers have noted that around two thirds of electorates are incredibly safe for the party that holds them and that therefore there’s little incentive for their MPs to go out and speak to the grotty, unwashed public – especially if the money they don’t spend goes to themselves.

For example, New England which has become one of the safest seats for the National Party in the country.

So naturally this is an important issue for its MP Barnaby Joyce, former National Party leader and current nothing, who took to Sunrise with Labor’s Joel Fitzgibbon to talk about how much they totally deserve whatever money they can shake out of the public purse, thanks, because MERIT.

GET OFF MY LAWN AND PAY ME A LAWN TOLL

First up, Joelie was arguing that sure, there’s an argument politicians should show that they’re being as fiscally disciplined as they’re demanding the public be, but also: nah.

“You need to pay [politicians] enough to attract good people to the career… if you were looking for a new CEO and said ‘we’re gonna pay you $200k a year and every second night you’re going to have to go for example the Lions Changeover Dinner and it’ll cost you and your wife about $100 each night,’ then you’d probably find yourself losing candidates.”

Have… have you spoken to media before, Joel?

And cheers, Joel, for illustrating a) impressive unconscious sexism with assuming that the “good people” that you’re attracting to the career are dudes, and b) showing how wildly out of touch he is about the cost of accomodation for the unsubsidised, unless that CEO was scoring some amazing mid-week hotel deals.

Oh, and c) missing the point because this isn’t about pay, it’s about pocketing unused expenses.

Not to be outdone, Barn showed some impressive bipartisan support by also blurring the income/expenses thing, but he decided to do so in an excitingly surreal word salad of a response.

“No employee will ever say I don’t think I’m entitled to what I’m being paid,” he began, and then…

“It’s always a great debate because people think politicians get paid too much and that’s fair enough, and later on you want to talk about the Chinese influence and how we’re going to manage that and how we’re going to deal with that in the future, and when you’re the Prime Minister you’re on a pretty good wicket, but to try to attract the base talent in you have to have a mechanism get somebody out of the private sector to get someone out of the defence force, to get them out of the agriculture sector in such a way as to bring them in. And it’s stupid to say in any employee ‘I’m going to start saying paid too much or my entitlements are too much’, and you can say that and you’ll be a really popular person for about ten minutes and then you’ll get paid less and life goes on.”

Barnaby Joyce, taken by the spirit of Sunrise

Again, the topic under discussion: should politicians get paid an expenses entitlement that they can pocket for themselves? Answer: I deserve my money and… something about China?

Sunrise: not taking this guff.

Anyway, aside from watching two high-powered members of our major parties talk about how they wouldn’t bother with this serving-the-nation garbage if it wasn’t also a nice little earner, on the basis of this performance if paying more for politicians means getting better ones, maybe we should look into that.

At least, as long as we can cash our current ones in.

Enough With The Entitlements, Politicians: Start Justifying Your Expenses At Tax Time Like The Rest Of Us

After all, isn't the age of entitlement supposedly over?

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.

Yeah. You heard right.

“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!

Gotta love ’em!

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.

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