The Premier of Victoria, the Hon. Daniel Andrews MP, asked in a press conference: “Is it any wonder that few people think highly of democratically elected members of parliament? Is it any wonder there is a cynicism, a scepticism, a distrust of so many members of parliament when we see the behaviour, appalling behaviour, that has occurred. I will have no part of it, and I am going to make important changes to ensure that what has happened here can never occur again.” Bravo, Mr. Daniels! He was referring to the fiscal revelations concerning the Speaker, and the Deputy Speaker, of the Victorian Government, both of whom were living outside of their respective electorates, and claiming living allowances paid by the tax-payer.
Mr. Andrews is to be applauded for being so forthright; for refusing to back his colleagues, and condemning, in the roundest of terms, the application of the system – even if it does fall within parliamentary guidelines. Now, more than ever, with the advent of social media, the public has a behavioural expectation– whether it be corporate or government. Gross breaches of standards are unacceptable, particularly when it involves the public purse, and only serve to exacerbate the public’s lack of regard for their elected representatives. It could be argued, the decline in standards, or the exposure thereof, has led to the rise of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation. Whatever else one may say about Ms. Hanson, many of her observations, and her resulting outrage,resonate with the broader community. There is a disturbing element of ‘them and us’ which has grown-up between politicians and the electorate.
It is inconceivable that a serving politician would imagine it acceptable for them to change their primary place of residence and live outside their electorate, regardless of mitigating circumstances, at the taxpayers’ expense. If you represent the people of Melton, then Melton is where you should live. The idea that you could up-stumps and move to a more agreeable beachside residence is absurd; an insult to the people you are purporting to represent, and an impossible notion to support. To imagine such an action would be permissible displays a disquieting level of hubris. In the case of Speaker and the Deputy Speaker, it is only right and fitting they should repay the claimed money. Rightly or wrongly, one could be forgiven for seeing the claiming of the allowance as financial advantage by deception – regardless of it being within the prescribed guidelines.
I suspect the problem was ever thus but we live in different times. While I have no proof, there can be little doubt that serving and past members took full advantage of the available perks, and in a number of cases wittingly bent the rules to meet their own ends. One only had to listen to the clamouring from Federal Members when the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, announced the Federal Government is abolishing the lifetime goldpass travel perks for politicians, immediately, in a bid to restore public confidence and save close to $5 million. Special Minster of State Scott Ryan said the Government would also introduce legislation to create a new compliance body to oversee expenses later this week.
Most would agree: Not a moment too soon. The age of entitlement is at an end!
Roland can be heard each MONDAY morning on 3BA at 10.30.