Posts Tagged ‘Christopher Pyne’

The statistics speak volumes about Speaker Bronwyn Bishop's management of the debating chamber, with 319 Labour MPs ejected under her rule, compared to only five Coalition MPs  as at  24.3.15. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

The statistics speak volumes about Speaker Bronwyn Bishop’s management of the debating chamber, with 319 Labour MPs ejected under her rule, compared to only five Coalition MPs as at 24.3.15. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

In many people’s opinion (just check social media) Bronwyn Bishop – long-standing Liberal MP and culture warrior – is one of the most partisan Speakers in recent Australian history. As this article shows, she seems much harder on the ALP than she is on her Liberal and National colleagues.

Now Labor frontbencher Tony Burke says Bronwyn Bishop will have to resign as Speaker if it is shown she signed documentation claiming $5,000 helicopter charter to attend a Liberal Party function as “official business”.

Bishop will be either extremely determined or very lucky to survive the rapidly escalating attack from Labor, who will go for the jugular with undisguised glee. They never could stand her, and even less so nowadays after their experience of her as Speaker.

The leader of opposition business, Tony Burke, called for the release of original documentation surrounding the taxpayer-funded travel and said there was “absolutely no way” Bishop could remain in the role if that were the case.

Bishop faced mounting political pressure this week about her use of entitlements, which included an expense of $5,227.27 for chartered flights from Melbourne to Geelong and back on 5 November 2014.

The Speaker announced on Thursday she would repay the charter flight money even though she maintained her belief that the travel “was conducted within the rules”.

 

Tony Abbott at the wedding of Sophie and Gregory Mirabella, at Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Wangaratta in 2006, alongside Bronwyn Bishop and another wedding guest. Photo: Rebecca Hallas

Tony Abbott at the wedding of Sophie and Gregory Mirabella, at Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Wangaratta in 2006, alongside Bronwyn Bishop and another wedding guest. Photo: Rebecca Hallas

 

Bishop must also pay a penalty of $1,307, because new rules implemented after a series of parliamentary expenses kerfuffles in 2013 affecting a number of senior figures including Tony Abbott (see here if you’ve forgotten) require politicians to repay an additional 25% of any adjustment to travel claims.

Labor continues to pursue the issue, pointing to a standard government form for charter certification for parliament’s presiding officers that says “office holders may use charter transport (including aircraft, helicopters and other vehicles) for their personal transport in connection with their office holder duties”.

According to that form, the office holder must certify that “knowingly giving false or misleading information is a serious offence under the Criminal Code Act 1995” and that they “travelled on the charter and it was provided for official purposes”.

Burke said on Friday that Bishop should release the document that she had signed. The contents of the form would determine whether Labor would demand her resignation from the key role of presiding over the lower house of parliament, he said.

“The normal form would say this was official business and would also say that there are serious criminal penalties if this is put in error,” Burke told Channel Seven’s Sunrise program.

“Now, if she signs it off in the normal form and it is, you know, a Liberal party fundraiser that she’s gone to, then that’s the end of the matter, she can’t stay as Speaker, absolutely no way.

“People make honest mistakes and we all know people can make honest mistakes but you don’t accidentally get on to a helicopter and turn up at a Liberal party fundraiser, so we need to find out and the government needs to release this document for us to work out exactly what it is that Bronwyn Bishop has claimed she has done.”

News outlets are seeking comment from Bishop’s office about which form she signed, whether she will release it, and how the event in Geelong was consistent with her office-holder duties.

The Speaker denied wrongdoing when she announced the plan to repay the funds on Thursday afternoon. “Whilst my understanding is that this travel was conducted within the rules, to avoid any doubt I will reimburse the costs,” she said in a brief statement.

The opposition leader, Bill Shorten, had earlier demanded intervention from the prime minister, Tony Abbott, saying the case showed that Bishop “thinks she is so important that she can’t even be bothered getting a car between Melbourne and Geelong, a one-hour car trip”.

The treasurer, Joe Hockey, added to the pressure by agreeing with a radio interviewer that the helicopter trip did not pass “the sniff test”. “Look, instinctively it doesn’t,” Hockey told 2UE. The treasurer responded to repeated questions about the Speaker’s expenses by calling on Bishop to explain matters.

Unsurprisingly, after the repayment announcement, senior ministers sought to move on from the matter.

The foreign affairs minister, Julie Bishop, said she would not pass judgment because she did not know the context or the circumstances in which the trip was undertaken. “But what I do know is that she has decided to repay the amount, including a penalty, so I think that should be the end of the matter,” the minister told ABC’s 7.30 program.

The leader of the house, Christopher Pyne, said the Speaker was “doing a superb job” and had his full support.

But the Government may find the matter is not swept away quite so easily.

For one thing, the case has eerie echoes of the problems in which former Speaker Peter Slipper found himself up to his neck, which resulted in on-going attacks from the Liberals and Nationals on his position.

On 8 January 2013 the Federal Police summonsed Slipper alleging three offences against Section 135.1(5)/ Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) in relation to allegations concerning the use of Cabcharge vouchers. Slipper was due to answer these allegations in the ACT Magistrates Court on 15 February 2013. According to documents released by the court, Slipper was alleged to have used Cabcharge to pay for hire cars to visit a number of wineries in the Canberra region in January, April and June 2010.

On 28 July 2014, Slipper was found guilty of dishonestly using taxpayer funds to visit Canberra wineries for his own enjoyment. On 24 September 2014, he was sentenced to 300 hours community service and ordered to reimburse taxpayers for the $954 total that was spent on the trips. Slipper appealed the sentence, and the case was heard in December 2014. Justice John Burns reserved his decision until 26 February 2015, when he ruled the appeal be upheld and the conviction and sentence be set aside.

Bishop may consider herself fortunate that the matter is breaking out on a Thursday and a Friday, as such stories can “die a death” over the weekend as the population turns its head to sport and relaxation. But Labor will be doing everything it can to ensure that doesn’t happen. Bill Shorten and his colleagues scent blood and they are overdue a win.

(Sources: Guardian Australia, Sydney Morning Herald, Wikipedia and others)

Abbott and his friends make their opinion of "temporary" tax increases very clear after the Queensland floods.

Abbott and his friends make their opinion of “temporary” tax increases very clear after the devastating Queensland floods. Now he proposes exactly the same idea.

We are on record as eschewing the general “bagging” of politicians per se, believing that some respect for our system of Government – some general belief that it is not entirely corrupted and merely the venue for amoral power-hungry sociopaths to do nothing but big note themselves and promote their career – is necessary for the well-being of the community and the country, but sometimes, even for a committed small-D democrat, it is very hard not to despair and simply scream incoherently “a plague on both your houses”.

It’s not just the nonsense they spout: it’s the nonsense they spout when they defend each other spouting nonsense.

If you give it, you have to take it. Abbott ruthlessly and effectively crucified Gillard. Is it his turn now?

If you give it, you have to take it. Abbott ruthlessly and effectively crucified Gillard. Is it his turn now?

In Australia, senior Liberal Christopher Pyne (or “Christopher Robin” as he is known in the Wellthisiswhatithink household, because of his repeatedly childish behaviour in Parliament and elsewhere) has denied that the introduction of a “deficit levy” – read, an extra tax to pay down debt – would be Tony Abbott’s “Julia Gillard moment”, (Julia Gillard being the immediate past Prime Minister, deposed by Abbott, who never got over being christened Juliar for bringing in a carbon tax when she had said pre-election that she wouldn’t), despite a majority of Australians saying the Abbott move would indeed be a broken promise.

Abbott promised repeatedly not to increase taxes. “You can’t tax your way to prosperity” was a mantra. So was “Tax cuts, without new taxes”.

Despite this, the Liberal-National coalition frontbencher played down the latest Galaxy poll, which showed a whopping 72 per cent believe the tax hike would indeed represent a blatant broken promise.

Australians know the government will have to make tough decisions to get the budget back on track, he said. “They know it won’t be easy and it is important that everyone shares in that burden of repairing the damage Labor did to the economy and to the budget,” Mr Pyne told ABC TV on Sunday.

The Australian Government can afford 58 of these, but needs a new tax to pay for the "budget crisis", and needs people to work till 70 till they get their pension, and is going to make wholesale cuts in the coming budget. When people work out that these are choices, and not inevitabilities, the backlash for Abbot could be horrible.

The Australian Government can apparently afford 58 of these, but now needs a new tax to pay for the “budget crisis”, plus it needs people to work till 70 to get their pension, and it is going to make wholesale cuts in the coming budget. When people work out that these are choices, and not inevitabilities, the backlash for Abbot could be horrible.

This is, however, in the face of the Government paying a massive $12.5 billion to buy new fighter jets, the serviceability and usability of which are the subject of on-going debate in defence circles as well as the country as a whole.

The contrast between “toys for the boys” and forecast swingeing cuts to welfare has brought the debate into sharp relief, not to mention damaged the Government’s standing.

It now trails the Labor Party that it just replaced by four percentage points. Two party-preferred support for the coalition has plunged 5.5 percentage points since the September election, with its vote now 48 per cent compared to Labor’s 52 per cent. Short honeymoon even by today’s low-attention ten-second soundbite standards of public discourse.

According to the poll, published by News Corp Australia, the Abbott government is facing a voter backlash over the possible new debt tax on those earning more than $80,000.

Certainly, the government has yet to confirm the deficit levy will be included in the May 13 budget but it seems that only a howl of outrage from the Australian middle class will prevent it.

But with huge – some would say laughable – bravado, the Prime Minister has said any levy would be temporary, and therefore wouldn’t break an election promise not to increase taxes.

So let’s just get that clear. If you only break a promise for a while, it’s not a broken promise, right? So what does it become? A bent promise? A slightly tarnished promise? Do we now have a whole new level of Government probity (or otherwise) to parse?

Mr Pyne went on to deny that a levy (read: a new tax) would be Mr Abbott’s “Julia Gillard moment” – a reference to the former prime minister’s broken promise on the carbon tax. “There is no easy way out from the debt and deficit disaster that Labor’s left us,” Mr Pyne said. “But what we do has to be fair to everyone, and it has to be right for the country. That’s the job of government.”

Newly-minted Opposition Leader Bill Shorten finally woke up from his slumber and weighed in. He said Labor would oppose a deficit levy, and urged the prime minister to drop the tax hike before next week’s budget.

“Increasing taxes on working class and middle class Australians is a terrible mistake, and people will not forgive Mr Abbott for breaking this very big promise,” Mr Shorten told reporters in Melbourne.

Whilst we find it somewhat stomach-churning to hear it from one of the core team who allowed wasteful spending to again become a way of life for Australian Governments – and who lacked the guts to challenge Gillard for the top job in time to actually repair Labor’s fortunes – we think he’s right.

Having allowed his plans to leak and become discussed, Abbot is now between a rock and a hard place. If he backs down on the new tax because his advisors reckon he can ride it out (or, more likely, are so deep in their bubble they fundamentally misjudge the anger it will cause) then he will be seen to be weak in the fight against the very fiscal crisis that he has promoted as needing fixing.

If he levies the tax, he will be pilloried for breaking the most fundamental pre-election commitment he made.

And in other commitments made pre-election, Abbott also locked in several “No Cut” promises leaving him, hopefully in this correspondent’s opinion, with even less wriggle room. Just take a look at this:

 

Right: noted.

Right: noted.

 

Against a backdrop of Coalition MPs privately venting that the new tax move was “Crazy”, and “Electoral suicide”, even the uncontroversial (generally) Sydney Morning Herald asked yesterday “Could it become known as the “Abbott moment”, when a prime minister cursed his political fate and consigned his government to one term? A big call, to be sure, especially so far out from the next federal poll in 2016.”

We are under no illusion. We think Abbott is about to hand the Liberal Party leadership on a plate to the man who should have had it all along, Malcolm Turnbull, were it not for the “hard right” putsch that idiotically deposed him in Abbott’s favour by a single vote. Not immediately, not in the very short term, but before long. You heard it here first. Our tip would be just before Christmas 2014, as it was even before Abbott won the General Election.

To misquote George Bush Snr, “Read my lips: no way out.”