My friend and colleague Fr. Andrew Doohan had this to say regarding the resignation of the Speaker of the House of Representatives today. I fully support his comments.
So today the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia has announced the resignation of the Speaker of the House of Representatives from her Office.
Good, I say.
Such a shame, however, that it took weeks for the question to be resolved and, realistically, the revelation of the serial nature of the Speaker’s profligate spending of public monies for the Speaker to do ‘the right thing’.
It leaves unresolved, however, the next step which, if the current Federal Government was consistent on these matters, would see an investigation by the Australian Federal Police, the potential launching of criminal proceedings for any potential charges of defrauding the Commonwealth through her actions, and the associated public hounding that seems to be nature of the behaviour of the current Federal Government towards Speakers who get it wrong.
What is also interesting is that in announcing the resignation of the Speaker, the Prime Minister doesn’t appear to have conceded that she had done anything wrong, blaming instead the system by saying:
What has become apparent is the problem is not any one particular person, the problem is the rules. So the problem is not with the people that make excessive expenses claims; the problem is that expenses claims can be made.
Clearly we have a situation where spending is arguably inside the rules but plainly outside of community expectations.
It is the system of parliamentary entitlements that will now be reviewed rather than the behaviour of the now former Speaker of the House of Representatives.
I disagree Mr Prime Minister.
What we have here is someone who, despite knowing better, was focussed on using the entitlements system in such a way as to benefit herself. Not only was the behaviour outside community expectations it also appears to have been playing fast and loose with those rules for personal benefit. While it is arguable that the parliamentary entitlements should be reviewed, the behaviour of the Member of Mackellar can not be allowed to go unreviewed regardless of what might happen as a result.
After all, if a recipient of welfare benefits via Centrelink were caught in similar situations the outcome would result in investigation and potential prosecution.
Repayment of the expenses claimed is not the end of the matter. That’s like saying if I return the money I stole from a bank, there is no crime. Defrauding the Commonwealth is a crime and the matter should be referred to the AFP and dealt with accordingly. For as long as the Member for McKellar remains cosy with Prime Minister, this is not likely to happen. He states that the Speaker’s action are arguably within the rules, but in my opinion that means that the actions are also arguably outside the rules. Nothing will happen from the PM unless public and media pressure make the issue too hot to ignore. He has a demonstrated track record in this regard. But then again, the PM can’t see that she has done anything wrong. This is just another example of the PM demonstrating that he is out of touch with realistic community expectations. A full review of parliamentary entitlements is long overdue, starting with the Life Gold Pass issued to long serving politicians who continue to dip into the public purse long after leaving political life!
All that is needed now is for her to resign as the Member for McKellar.