According to Fairfax a politicians expenses in meeting with journalists are not work-related expenses
I reckon a dose of salts might be about to go through Canberra.
Fairfax's Sun-Herald has published a story today about then Senators Barnaby Joyce and George Brandis QC.
The crux of Fairfax's story is that a member of the Federal Parliament should not be reimbursed expenses for meeting with, travelling to see, or any other travelling expenses associated with attending on journalists.
To quote the Sun-Herald story
The federal Department of Finance's guidelines state MPs are allowed to claim travel and accommodation expenses for official business including ''meetings of a government advisory committee or taskforce'' or ''functions representing a minister or presiding officer''. Meeting with journalists is not a purpose sanctioned by the guidelines.
I would like to know how many parliamentary expense claims have been approved for out of state attendees on Q and A, Lateline, or any of a range of other TV or radio shows or interviews with journalists/magazines/receivers of leaks.
On Sunday, 4 December last year Barnaby Joyce appeared to be questioned on The Bolt Report on Channel 10. Channel 10 does not have a studio at St George in Queensland. It's hundreds of miles from any major centre. What's a Federal Parliamentarian supposed to do? Refuse to appear? Barnaby Joyce travelled to Sydney to appear on the program, working the weekend as usual and he put in other appointments as well - away from his family. No extra pay for that by the way, but Fairfax would have him pay his travel costs out of his own pocket.
Barnaby also attended my wedding that day. He didn't claim his accommodation expenses that night. He did have some Commonwealth Car expenses during that day and the next.
My wife and I paid for Senator Brandis and Senator Joyce's car transfers to and from the wedding - see the correspondence at the bottom of this post.
The SunHerald article reports in the same snarly tone that Senator Joyce claimed the cost of a flight to Moree the next day.
I know that Barnaby Joyce was on the road yesterday, Saturday, away from his office. I was on the road too. The SunHerald's journalist rang me for the first time yesterday and Barnaby told me that the first he knew about the story was yesterday when the journalist got in touch with him. Could you remember what else you did on 4 December, 2011 when you're out in the car on a Saturday 2 years later with the kids and no diary?
But Fairfax had its grab, "Senator Joyce could not recall whether he had any other meetings that day..." And the story is going off in luvvy land and Twitter.
On the day in question, Sunday, 4 December 2011 Barnaby was up early, he'd done Bolt's show, travelled up to near Gosford, met with 12 journalists who all bent his and Senator Brandis's ears - there was Jason Morrison, Paul Murray, me, my wife (a Section Editor with the Australian Financial Review) the legal affairs editor from the AFR, the iPad editor from the AFR and many other journalists from other newspapers etc.
Senator the Honourable George Brandis QC gave an impassioned speech about freedom of the press and the pusillanimity and flagrant mendacity of some media proprietors. If he'd given it at the Fairfax editors conference, there would be no drama. Prime Minister Gillard attended at the News Limited editors conference just 4 months earlier and there was no drama.
When asked about the meeting earlier on Tuesday, Ms Gillard said other prime ministers and opposition leaders had attended similar meetings in the past.
"Such meetings have been addressed by prime ministers and opposition leaders in the past, so when I was invited by Mr Hartigan, I accepted the invitation," she said.
I can tell you that the journalists at our wedding did not simply see George Brandis and Barnaby Joyce as normal wedding guests. George and Barnaby do not have the luxury of anonymity. Every move they make is analysed and reported on as it was that night too.
So after a big night, early the next day Barnaby Joyce flies to Moree where he's involved in water negotiations/discussions to get harangued, like always, by media. That's how the populace get their messages Fairfax, from the media, decreasingly from you. Is it your interpretation of the Guidlines for Conservative Politician Expense Reimbursement that where an expense is incurred in speaking with local media that cost should be personally borne by the member?
If I was going on a fishing trip with my mates like Barnaby and that got charged to the taxpayer, I'd be aghast and shocked. That would be wrong. But those blokes were at my wedding in a representative role and they did not demur in any way from their paid elected role as prominent Federal Parliamentarians whose every action was being scrutinised and reported by the some of the large number of journalists who were present. Some of the guests were tweeting about what George and Barnaby were doing. I don't fill out their expense claims but I don't think the circumstances of either man's claim is unreasonable.
Finally, my wife and I paid for Senator Brandis and Senator Joyce's car transfers from their accommodation to our wedding. There was no cost to the taxpayer. I do not know how Katarina did it!
From: Katarina Kroslakova
Date: 2 December 2011 14:46
Subject: RE: Trip sheet
To: Sarah Johnston
Tanya Morgan | Personal Assistant
Senator the Honourable George Brandis, S.C.
Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate | Shadow Attorney-General | Shadow Minister for the Arts
Office of Senator Barnaby Joyce | Leader of the Nationals in the Senate | LNP Senator for Queensland
Shadow Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Water
PO Box 628, St George Q 4487 |P
From: Sarah J
Sent: Friday, 2 December 2011 2:32 PM
To: Katarina Kroslakova
Subject: FW: Trip sheet
Okay take 2.
Towncars have advised that your credit card has not been charged.
Are you able to call Kristy and complete the payment? I’ve set the return trip for 10.30. They will need to call the driver if they wish to stay longer and that’s fine (as long as it’s not past , otherwise a surcharge will apply)
Also are you able to advise the mobile phone numbers for both gentlemen – if either of them are MIA I’ll just send them a text message saying their car has arrived and is waiting for them to depart. If we could have them waiting in the lobby at 3.45 that would be great. The driver has my number, and I’ve asked them to call me if they have any dramas.
Thanks so much, sorry for the screw up. Annoyed that we couldn’t do this cheaper for you :S
SEE YOU SOOOOOOOOOON
Im so excited, this is THE wedding of the year me dear :D
Please find attached your trip sheet for travel, can you please double check all information is correct with our data.
We do require full payment ASAP, otherwise the vehicle will not leave the dock until paid in Full
If I can assist you with anything else please feel free to contact either myself or Kim
High Class Limousines
NB - all MPs expenses for that period can be found here.