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Let those without sin

By John Slater - posted Wednesday, 22 July 2015


If Bronwyn Bishop should resign, then so should Mark Dreyfus

The revelation that Speaker of the House Bronwyn Bishop used her MP entitlements to charter a $5,000 helicopter trip from Melbourne to Geelong has been rightly labelled excessive and unjustifiable.

However, Labor frontbenchers who have spent the last week calling for Bishop's resignation would be well advised to examine the plexiglass covering their own party's dalliances with taxpayer funded entitlements before throwing any more stones.

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According to Bill Shorten, Bishop's actions were "shameful" and "colossally arrogant."

Perhaps. But if so, then what of Senator Helen Polley's $26 000 bill chartering flights between Launceston and Hobart?

Polley claims her duties as a backbench Senator kept her so busy that economies of time required her to catch a plane instead of a car. But as Government whip Andrew Nikolic has deftly pointed out, once time spent boarding and disembarking at either end and transport to and from the airport is factored in, the $26 000 exercise could only have saved Polley less than an hour. Just how busy was poor old Polley?

Shorten has accused Bishop of 'wafting around above our heads in taxpayer-funded helicopters' while at the same time 'cutting the incomes of vulnerable Australians.'

But when we peel away Shorten's class warfare invective, are the cases of time-poor Polley and toffee-nosed Bronwyn Bishop really that different?

Julia Gillard, a politician who made much of her credentials as a warrior of the working class was also partial to aerial junkets underwritten by taxpayers during her time in office. In 2013, she chartered a private jet to Byron Bay to attend her press secretary's wedding, presumably at far greater expense than a comparatively paltry $5000.

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Gillard was of course smart enough to spend a few hours opening a newly upgraded section of the Bruce Highway so that the charter could be deemed 'official business.' Even accepting this, the idea that a Royal Air Force Charter an appropriate, much less necessary trimming to hold a press conference outside a refurbished stretch of road is bemusing. Indeed, for those professing concern about the publicly funded largesse of the political class, it might even be labelled arrogant.

Shorten has been joined by several of his colleagues in demanding Bishop's resignation as Speaker. Whether Abbott sacks her has been dubbed by Shorten a "test of Abbott's leadership."

But where was Labor's high-minded regard for the integrity of the Speaker, a keystone of our Parliament, when allegations far more egregious than Bishop's chopper ride were levelled at Peter Slipper? Does Labor think a public crucifixion of the current speaker will atone them of their sins when they wilfully ignoring the misdeeds of the Speaker they installed while in government?

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About the Author

John Slater is the Executive Director of the H R Nicholls Society.

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