First up, House speaker Bronwyn Bishop taking a helicopter to a Liberal Party fundraiser, because fuck Melbourne traffic, right? Oh, and there's the 300k of other people's money spent on overseas trips:
Bronwyn Bishop spending more on overseas travel than former Speakers
Bronwyn Bishop spent more than $300,000 of taxpayers' dollars on overseas travel in her first year as federal Speaker, culminating in a $90,000 European trip partly aimed at securing her a plum new job abroad.
An analysis by Fairfax Media shows Mrs Bishop spent more on overseas travel in a 12-month period than any of her most recent predecessors – Anna Burke, Peter Slipper and Harry Jenkins.
Mrs Bishop spent $178,000 on four major trips in the first half of 2014 and $131,000 on two trips in the latter half — $309,000 in total. Only Mr Jenkins ever even came close to that figure, racking up $277,000 in 2009.
The final of Mrs Bishop's 2014 trips – to Italy, Belgium, Austria and Switzerland – has stirred particular controversy.
Mrs Bishop led a small parliamentary delegation on the two-week trip which culminated in a week-long meeting in Geneva of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, of which she was campaigning to become president.
Mrs Bishop lost the vote to Bangladesh's candidate – but not before racking up $88,084 in expenses.
The veteran Liberal warrior's latest six-monthly entitlements report reveals she and two staff members, spokesman Damien Jones and official Talitha Try, spent $25,400 on accommodation and food, $42,400 on airfares and almost $14,000 on ground transport over the fortnight. They also pocketed about $6000 in advances and for minor and related expenses.
Even taking into account the fact that she had accompanying staff, Mrs Bishop's spending dwarfs that of her four fellow delegates.
On the same trip, Liberal MP Nola Marino spent $21,300, while Labor parliamentarians Glenn Sterle and Tony Zappia spent $18,666 and $13,249 respectively. Liberal senator Cory Bernardi, who only travelled to Switzerland, spent $10,178.
Indeed, Mrs Bishop and her staff spent vastly more than all four of the other delegates combined – their total expenses tally up to about $63,000. They each spent between $2000 to $3000 on accommodation and food and between $8000 and $15,000 on flights.
A source familiar with the trip said Mrs Bishop's bill was "gobsmacking".
"I just don't know how the hell she could spend that much," the source said.
Mr Jones said Mrs Bishop was entitled to take two staff members on the trip.
"It's the first and only time she has taken two staff," he said. "That was due to the size of the trip and the fact she was running for IPU president."
Mr Jones said that while Mrs Bishop was entitled to fly first-class she actually flew business class.
Mrs Bishop's entitlement report shows she also racked up a $43,000 bill on a trip through Asia.
The report also reveals she charged taxpayers more than $5000 to charter a flight from Melbourne to Geelong in November. Her office has repeatedly failed to explain why she needed to charter a helicopter for a trip that would have taken her about an hour in her much cheaper chauffer-driven Commonwealth car.
Labor has written to Mrs Bishop's office demanding answers.
Her total expenses for the period from July 1 to December 31, 2014, add up to just under $400,000, making her one of the biggest spenders in Parliament if you set aside once-off office fitout costs.
Indeed, the only MPs who spent more were Prime Minister Tony Abbott and five frontbenchers required to do a lot of travel.
Her expenses come on top of her $341,000 salary.
This is an ongoing problem with politicians from both sides of the aisle. Perhaps allowances and travel budgets should be organised and overseen by a body independent of parliament.
Also, I love how Mr. Everyman, Joe Hockey, has now declared an "end to the age of entitlement" in this regard
To avoid double posting:
Union royal commission starting to haunt Shorten
The Trade Union Royal Commission may be more of a slow-burn than the Coalition had hoped, but the fall of one of Bill Shorten's factional allies in Victoria is a gift to Tony Abbott, writes Alison Savage.
It was always going to be uncomfortable for Bill Shorten when the Trade Union Royal Commission turned its attention to the union he used to lead.
But allegations that his hand-picked successor at the helm of the Victorian branch of the Australian Workers Union, Cesar Melhem, oversaw an agreement that robbed low-paid cleaning workers of their penalty rates have turned up the heat on the Opposition Leader.
Mr Melham, now an MP in Victoria's Upper House, denies the allegations put to him by the Royal Commission last week, but stood down from his position as Government Whip to avoid the issue becoming a "distraction" for the Andrews Government.
Whenever Mr Melhem's name has been mentioned at the Royal Commission, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews insisted the Commission "had an important job to do" and he was "not going to run a commentary".
But the tide turned last week when two of Mr Melhem's former union colleagues, including a former organiser now working in the Premier's office, threw him under a bus by directly contradicting his claim he knew nothing about questionable accounting practices that boosted union membership and the deal with a cleaning company that bargained away the penalty rates of workers.
The first to contradict Mr Melhem was John-Paul Blandthorn, a former AWU organiser now working in the Premier's office. The other was Mr Melhem's successor at the AWU, Ben Davis, who could barely conceal his rage when he described to the Commission the lengths he went to fix questionable union membership payments by a construction company that allegedly flourished under Mr Melhem's watch.
The evidence from former allies appeared to indicate that Mr Melhem has been cut adrift by the AWU.
Mr Andrews would not say if Mr Melhem jumped from the whip's position or was pushed, but the writing was on the wall when members of his own AWU aligned faction began publicly calling for him to step down from the role.
The scandal, coupled with the standing down of minister Adem Somyurek over bullying allegations, have made for a difficult few weeks for the Labor Government, just six months into its term.
Mr Andrews has been forced to defend his decision not to take action sooner, and faces ongoing questions about whether Mr Melhem's powerful position as factional "numbers man" offered him a measure of protection not afforded to Mr Somyurek, who was quickly stood down as soon as a complaint was made against him.
Mr Shorten has not publicly backed Mr Melhem since his fall from grace, saying he has "zero tolerance" for corruption, but he has not taken the opportunity to publicly distance himself from his friend either.
He has also refused to say whether he had any knowledge of the alleged practices detailed at the Royal Commission.
The Royal Commission does not hand down its final report until the end of this year, and Labor and the union movement have questioned its motivations and tactics.
But in Victoria at least, it has laid bare a fault-line within Bill Shorten's right faction of the Labor party, and has seen former union mates publicly turn on each other.
A Labor MP from Mr Melhem's faction said this week the former union boss had "stink lines" around him after the evidence at the Royal Commission.
Those "stink lines" are causing significant pain for the relatively young Andrews Government, and the Coalition is no doubt hoping the smell attaches itself to Mr Shorten
It's a little late in posting but an important development in the run up to the next election. Nothing has really stuck to Shorten but it might not need to to terminally damage his leadership. Even Justice Heydon gave Bill a slap down for jumping round questions and obfuscating, making it seem as if he had something to hide.
Is this the beginning of the end of Shorten or will he see Labor through to the next election?