Truss me, I’m a politician: MP spends $21k on flight

TAXPAYERS footed a more than $21,000 bill for Warren Truss to give a speech explaining the virtues of tightening the government belt and reducing expenditure after the controversial 2014 Federal Budget.

The Deputy Prime Minister's expenses, released by the Department of Finance late last month, show the Wide Bay MP spent $21,570 on a chartered flight between Canberra and Brisbane to give a speech at the Conservative Breakfast Club in Brisbane on May 14, last year.

The revelation of the expensive charter flight after Speaker of the House and Liberal member Bronwyn Bishop last week found herself in hot water for spending taxpayer's money on a $5000 helicopter flight between Geelong and Melbourne to attend a Liberal Party fundraiser.

At the time Mr Truss's speech angered retirees who took exception to his implication they were wasting their superannuation and lifesavings on cruises and overseas trips.

"The Budget takes steps to ensure the government is living within its means, and to rein in the age of entitlement," Mr Truss said, according to an online transcript of the speech.

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It was previously unknown that Mr Truss had splashed out on a chartered flight between Canberra and Brisbane, despite there being regular flights between the two cities.

A search of Qantas flights revealed six flights departing Canberra on Tuesdays and five departing Brisbane on  Wednesdays.

A business class ticket between Canberra and Brisbane cost $809 each way.

A spokeswoman for Mr Truss said the flight was chartered as there were "no suitable commercial flights available to meet Mr Truss's ministerial duties on May 13 and 14, 2014".

The Conservative Breakfast Club regularly schedules speakers from the conservative side of politics to address like-minded people, with profits donated to organisations such as the Royal  Children's Hospital and Lifeline.

Mr Truss's appearance at the club occurred during Budget week sitting of Parliament, meaning Mr Truss would be required in Parliament that week.

It is unclear why Mr Truss's Brisbane appearance was booked during Budget week when a majority of parliamentary sittings are scheduled well in advance.

"On May 13, Mr Truss was required to be present in Parliament for the handing down of the Federal Budget. Mr Truss had official commitments in Canberra until approximately 9pm that evening and was then required to travel to Brisbane to meet another Budget-related commitment early the following morning (May 14)," the spokeswoman said.

"Parliament was sitting on May 14 and Mr Truss was required back in Canberra by midday to fulfil ministerial duties. Commercial flights were unavailable, and Mr Truss legitimately utilised his charter budget to meet his Parliamentary obligations."

The rest of Mr Truss's expense report was relatively frugal, with the MP spending almost $287,000 between July 1 and December 31, 2014 - about $43,000 less than Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt's $244,000 in the same period.

The report included expenses incurred by Mr Truss for his duties not only as Member for Wide Bay but also as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development.

"Minister Truss is assiduous in the expenditure of his Parliamentary entitlements, which are used to fund his various responsibilities as the Federal Member for Wide Bay, Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development, Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Nationals," the spokeswoman said.

The report also details expenditure which was paid in the last half of 2014, even though it was incurred before July 1, last year. The chartered flight was included in this category.

Mr Truss's total expenditure in that category was about $70,800.

Coalition adjusts claim rules

SINCE coming to government, the Coalition has introduced a number of changes to the rules around parliamentary entitlements, including:

  •  A prohibition on family employment
  •  Mandatory training for multiple incorrect travel claims within a financial year
  •  Tightening the rules for family reunion travel
  •  A strengthened declaration a parliamentarian makes when submitting a travel claim
  •  Reducing class of travel for overseas parliamentary delegations, presiding officers, ministers and officials, from first class bookings to no higher than business class
  •  Legislation to abolish the life gold pass scheme
  •  A 25% penalty on incorrect travel claims.

Retirees berated on spending

WHAT Mr Truss said at his speech:

"We needed to make decision at the beginning of our term that will restructure our economy - shifting the balance away from recurrent expenditure to investment in infrastructure, skills and the things that will drive the productive growth we need for the future. Australia cannot sustain the kind of government spending that took the Federal Government from having $70 billion in the bank in 2007 to gross debt of $667 billion in just over 15 years.

"Australia is in this mess after just six years of Labor government because they couldn't stop spending.

"Increasingly, the lifestyle and savings from superannuation are seen as an opportunity to enjoy a few cruises and the luxuries of life for a few years until it runs out and people can fall back on the age pension.

"This is the responsible Budget we were elected to deliver.

"It is a fair Budget, because all of us will do our bit."

Gympie Times


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