Taxpayers forking out thousands for pollies’ car crash claims
POLLIES have charged taxpayers thousands of dollars to fix "dings" and other scrapes in their private-plated cars - with some accident-prone MPs making multiple claims.
At least 15 politicians have exercised their legal entitlement by claiming almost $10,000 in "accident excess" for damage caused to their private-plated vehicles funded by the Commonwealth in the year to March, The Daily Telegraph has found.
Melbourne Greens MP Adam Bandt charged taxpayers $454.55 for a "ding" to his vehicle in August 2018.
"The car was not involved in an accident but had minor scrapes on it and was repaired in accordance with department policy," a spokesman for Mr Bandt said.
Politicians may use a private-plated or Commonwealth-leased vehicle for parliamentary, electorate or official business under guidelines which stipulate insurance excess is "paid at government expense".
Robertson MP Lucy Wicks listed two excess payments totalling $909 for an incident on August 14 last year, while current Defence Minister Linda Reynolds claimed three incidents at a cost of $1500 between May and September last year.
A spokeswoman for Ms Reynolds said her car "underwent repair works on three occasions for minor damage including to the car front and door".
Liberal Senator David Bushby claimed two excess payments totalling $1000, and Blaxland MP Jason Clare lodged one $500 excess claim for car damage on April 20.
Brian Mitchell, Rebekha Sharkie, Arthur Sinodinos, Andrew Gee and Michelle Rowland also claimed $500. Mr Gee said his claim came after his vehicle hit a kangaroo.
Former Victorian senator Jacinta Collins charged taxpayers a total of $1409 for two excess payments related to incidents on the October 12 and December 17 last year.
Fellow former parliamentarians Cathy O'Toole, David Feeney and Ross Hart claimed $500 in excess for incidents in 2018 while Victorian senator James Paterson claimed $454.55 on December 30.
A spokeswoman for Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said the government "does not comment on individual parliamentarians' work expenses or remuneration".
"An accident excess payment is an expense incurred by a parliamentarian," she said.
"The payment is incurred when an insurance claim is processed.
"The Department of Finance pays the excess and attributes the expense to the individual parliamentarian's other car costs, which are published quarterly by the Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority.
"Parliamentarians may request a Commonwealth-leased private plated vehicle (PPV), as part of their remuneration."
Analysis of total expense reports by 246 federal MPs and senators shows Bill Shorten had the largest individual share of the more than $140 million spent on travel, office and staff expenses in the 12 months to March 2019.
Mr Shorten's expenses bill was about $3.2 million, or an average of $274,161 a month - well above Scott Morrison's $216,455 spend per month in his first six months as prime minister.
A spokesman for Mr Shorten said "all expenditure has been incurred and reported within the rules".
Malcolm Turnbull racked up a $1.65 million bill in his final six months in office, with government ministers David Littleproud, Christopher Pyne, Steven Ciobo, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, Marise Payne, Nigel Scullion and Greg Hunt rounding out the top 10 list of spenders.
Boothby Liberal MP Nicolle Flint spent $324,696 on administrative costs, including $238,602 on printing and communication, twice the average for politicians. She said an electorate redraw had given her 39,000 new voters.
"Given the very large number of new voters and the overall very high number of voters, a combination of print and digital communications were necessary to engage with everyone in our community," she said, adding she used volunteers to deliver flyers to reduce costs.
Former Queensland senator Fraser Anning spent $33,306 on family travel including more than $2200 flying a family member to Hobart in February this year when, according to a social media post at the time, he was launching a Tasmanian branch of his party.
Maverick North Queensland MP Bob Katter spent a whopping $104,578 on COMCAR travel over the 12 months, almost $30,000 more than Mr Morrison.
A spokeswoman for Mr Katter said the Kennedy MP prided himself on being "one of the most travelled politicians in Australia", a necessity of covering one of the country's largest electorates.
Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie also racked up a significant COMCAR bill. The senator took 91 COMCAR trips - all in capital cities - from September 27 to December 31, totalling $12,495.95.
A spokesman for Ms McKenzie said that as a rural-based minister she was "required to be away from her home base to conduct many of her ministerial duties".
Mr Littleproud claimed the most "unscheduled travel" - or use of charter planes - of any politician, spending $233,707 on private planes between small regional towns.
Western Australia senator Mathias Cormann had the biggest family travel bill, spending $34,997, followed by Mr Shorten with $33,374.