Taxpayers to be kept in the dark over illegitimate expense claims

Bronwyn Bishop, Philip Ruddock and Labor frontbencher Tony Burke may have thrown open their books for scrutiny by the Department of Finance, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the public will know of any misdemeanours.

Due to something known as the Minchin protocol, the department does not comment on the accounts being assessed, and MPs are allowed to quietly repay any illegitimate expenses without bringing the matter to the public, Fairfax media reports.

In other words, unless the MPs themselves decide to divulge any misdemeanours, we will never know what else was claimed irresponsibly.

The strategy of allowing the Department of Finance to trawl through their finance records came too late for Mrs Bishop, who lost her job as speaker. Mr Ruddock was an early contender as a replacement until it was revealed he claimed more than $18,000 in expenses for several trips to Cairns, where he owns an apartment.

Mr Ruddock agreed to repay the costs of one of the trips, but maintains that the rest were within entitlements.

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Mr Burke, Shadow minister for Finance, last week agreed to repay $90 in travel expenses he claimed to attend a Robbie Williams concert, but insists his use of  the “family reunion” provision to fly his children business class to Uluru at a cost of more than $12,000, was legitimate.

In a statement to Fairfax media, authorities said: “The Department of Finance does not comment on its dealings with individual parliamentarians or in relation to the administration of parliamentary entitlements.”

“The Department of Finance does not comment on outcomes or matters being assessed under the Minchin Protocol.”

What do you make of this “Minchin Protocol”? Do taxpayers have the right to know about the mistakes our politicians have made or should they be allowed to repay them in secret?