The gravy train

The rort continues 

Today, The Age reported that on top of Joe Hockey’s substantial pay as US ambassador, he has charged tax- payers $2500 for babysitting costs, among other extraordinary benefits.

Surely now, the time has come for all interested in politics, regardless of where they be in the political spectrum, to unite against this shameful rort.

And the longer our politicians lecture us about an impending ‘debt crisis’, while they binge on the unbridled, lavish benefits of public life, the more they relinquish their credibility as respected leaders of our nation.

“Taxpayers slugged for former treasurer Joe Hockey’s babysitting bill as US ambassador”, The Age, October 25 2015:

Joe Hockey is charging taxpayers thousands of dollars for babysitters to watch his children while he wines and dines VIPs in Washington.

Despite already collecting an estimated $360,000 salary as US ambassador – and also double-dipping into his $90,000-a-year pension – Mr Hockey billed taxpayers almost $2500 for child minding during the five months in his new role.

Documents obtained by Fairfax Media under freedom of information laws show the former federal treasurer – who once declared that the “age of entitlement” was over – is drawing on his entertainment budget five or six times a month to hire people to look after his three children.

He charges between $US50 and $140 a pop so he can have brunch with Australian government ministers, attend formal dinners and host events at his official residence.

The documents end at June 30 this year, so do not include any further costs incurred in the past four months.

The figures are contained in Mr Hockey’s first “representation funds expenditure” report. Mr Hockey initially listed the expenses as “babysitting” but in April changed tack and began listing the childminding as “additional staff”.

The change occurred about a week after Fairfax Media submitted its initial freedom of information application.

In total, Mr Hockey and his predecessor, Kim Beazley, charged $121,000 for their entertainment budget in the 2015-16 financial year.

Mr Hockey took over the job in mid-January. His biggest expense was a $6000 knees-up for embassy staff in May.

The 2015-16 total was up significantly from the $86,000 Mr Beazley spent in the previous financial year

Mr Hockey was appointed US ambassador after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull sacked him from the treasurer’s job when he toppled Tony Abbott. As treasurer, Mr Hockey railed against women who “double dip” by claiming both workplace and taxpayer-funded paid parental leave schemes.

Mr Hockey’s disclosures contain far less detail than those of Mr Beazley, failing to list specific guests. Other details from both Mr Hockey and Mr Beazley’s time in charge have been redacted by officials.

Mr Beazley spent hundreds of dollars on books to give out as gifts and also appears to have shelled out $3400 for a bottle of Penfolds Grange.

He was also a fan of lunch with visiting politicians, charging $420 for lunch with Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, $300 for a “light lunch” with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and $500 for lunch with former trade minister Andrew Robb.

The former Labor leader also charged $1500 for three consecutive lunches with deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek and $775 for a dinner and a lunch with Attorney-General George Brandis.

In October 2014 he paid $1380 for a dinner with another visiting dignitary – the then treasurer, Joe Hockey.

Both Mr Hockey and Mr Beazley have charged thousands for food, wine, flowers, musicians, dry-cleaning and even piano tuning. They have both also charged for membership of Washington DC’s famously exclusive Metropolitan Club.

Australia’s ambassador to the US lives in a heritage-listed 1940s mansion known as “White Oaks”.

Government documents released earlier this year revealed Australians paid the $8500 bill to convert a storage area into a bedroom.

It was also previously revealed Mr Hockey and wife, Melissa Babbage, had recruited a $46,000 housekeeper – on the taxpayer – to prepare meals, clean, wash and iron.

Australian diplomats spend an estimated $5 million wining, dining and entertaining abroad each year. The Washington embassy typically produces one of the biggest bills given its size.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade documents carry the disclaimer: “In order to be permissible, functions must be of specific value to Australia by furthering post objectives.”

For my latest eBook, go here

One thought on “The rort continues 

Leave a Reply