In Australia, politicians seem to be a protected species, being accorded all sorts of benefits and privileges over and above anything available to the people who voted them into power. Politicians can create disaster after disaster and bring this nation to its knees, yet retire from parliament or get kicked out at an election and still receive amazingly generous pensions and a myriad of benefits.
Prime ministers such as Gough Whitlam, Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard nearly turned Australia into a banana republic with their idiotic failed socialistic policies, profligate spending of money that was not theirs to squander and punitive taxes without any basis in fact. They lied to their employers, the Australian people, yet were rewarded for their flagrant abuse of out trust. If a company CEO lied to his employer to get his position and was found out, he would not only be dismissed on the spot and lose all benefits, but would most possibly be prosecuted for fraud.
But what happened to Julia Gillard when she lied to the voters in order to get the job as prime minister with her "There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead", then almost immediately imposed a carbon tax? Instead of being prosecuted for making a false representation to obtain a benefit, which is both a federal and state crime, she was rewarded with the highest political position in the nation and a huge salary and many perks to go with it.
And when Gillard was booted out of power, did she pay any penalty for her lies and incompetence? No, Gillard received a massive pension, an office and staff, free first-class airline travel for life, commonwealth car and chauffeur and a non-indexed superannuation package that is far more generous than anything a mere mortal in the workforce gets from his employer - and all funded by the taxpaying suckers who slave away at their jobs to give Gillard all these lurks and perks for the rest of her life.
In recent years, politicians have enjoyed these incredible benefits, while at the same time they have been preaching to the people that the "Age Of Entitlement" is now over. Liberal treasurer Joe Hockey stated this in parliament and the media and that it was time for all Australians to do the heavy lifting, however that was just a pile of hot air. Politicians continue to spend tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars on flights to sporting events, study tours, recipe collections and children's books - such as Aliens in Underpants Save the World.
In 2014, Department of Finance records showed that rising Liberal Party MP Jamie Briggs claimed almost $11,000 in entitlements over two years for travel to and from sporting events. For most of this period, November 2011 to November 2013, Briggs was chairman of the Coalition's government waste committee, established to highlight the mismanagement of taxpayer money.
His entitlement claims included:
Briggs said: ''Each trip was undertaken within the entitlement rules and publicly declared as required. They included meetings with a range of people related to my work as a federal member of Parliament.'' Yes, Briggs was certainly entitled to these benefits, but his claims were utter nonsense. He could have met all those people in his office or at their offices, rather than claiming to do this by attending Derby Day, a football game and the Australian Golf Open. Snout in the trough? For sure.
In 2013, Prime Minister Tony Abbott was embarrassed into repaying more than $11,000 in entitlements, including a travel allowance to attend the weddings of colleagues Peter Slipper and Sophie Mirabella. Coalition frontbenchers George Brandis and Barnaby Joyce repaid $2200 in entitlements to attend former shock jock Michael Smith's wedding.
Department of Finance records show that imminent departure from office did not stop some politicians going on taxpayer-funded overseas study tours. A week after announcing his retirement from politics last July, Simon Crean left for a study tour of Switzerland and Italy for which he claimed $20,400. Crean had meetings with leaders from the World Trade Organisation and International Labour Organisation. For what purpose, if he was leaving politics? That trip was completely unjustified by any measure.
Liberal MP Barry Haase, who did not recontest his seat at the September election, claimed $28,770 for a study tour last July to Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Cuba and Peru. During his trip, Mr Haase met representatives from the wine, beef, mining and tourism sectors. But for what purpose? To justify his expenses for taking a holiday in South America, when meeting these people had no significance because he was retiring from politics? Another snout in the trough?
Attorney-General Senator Brandis, who required a new $15,000 bookcase, continued to expand his collection. His purchases included Downfall: How the Labor Party Ripped Itself Apart, Pamela Williams' Killing Fairfax and biographies of former British Conservative prime ministers Margaret Thatcher and Benjamin Disraeli. He also bought Holy See, Unholy Me, a memoir of former National Party leader Tim Fischer's time as ambassador to the Vatican. But what had these books to do with his job?
A spokesman for Senator Brandis said: ''Most of the outlays were for law reports, newspapers and current affairs periodicals. The eight books acquired all related to politics and public affairs.'' However, it is hard to see why the taxpayer funded these books, or a purpose for Brandis to claim them as a legitimate expense.
Queensland Liberal National MP Bert van Manen claimed $5220 in publications entitlements in 2013, mostly on children's, craft, sporting and cooking books. Vvan Manen's purchases included 101 Great Rugby League Players, The Encyclopaedia of Woodworking Techniques, The Complete Book of Vegetables, Herbs and Fruit and children's books such as Lola the Lollipop Fairy, Edwina the Emu and 38 copies of Incy Wincy Spider. A spokeswoman for Van Manen said: ''The books in question are entirely within the publications entitlements.'' Oh really? Lola the Lollipop Fairy? One can only marvel at what Van Manen did with the information from Lola.
Of course when Labor was in power, this sort of profligate scamming went on constantly, with politicians ripping off the taxpayers of Australia with the most preposterous claims, overseas junkets without real purpose and ridiculous expenses without justification. However, the crazy allowances granted to politicians allow them to stick their snouts into the taxpayer trough, no matter what party they represent.
Here are some proposals to make politicians shoulder their share of the weight now that the Age of Entitlement is over. This is what needs to happen.
Dealing with these issues is a way to end this Age Of Entitlement. Politicians should not have any special privileges - they are citizens who put themselves up to serving the people of Australia and they get paid for it. That pay or any other benefits should not continue when they leave their positions in parliament, just as normal employees of companies do not receive ongoing pay or benefits when they resign from their places of employment or are fired.