Australian politicians’ perks border on scandalous

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Australian politicians are already amongst the highest paid elected representatives in the world, but the perks they can claim on top of their extremely generous salaries border on scandalous.

As of 1 July 2014, the base salary for backbenchers is $195,130. According to the Parliamentary Superannuation Remuneration Tribunal, the average base salary for each Senator and Member of the House of Representatives is $199,040. Ministers receive $307,329, Cabinet Ministers $336,599, the PM’s salary is $507,338, the Deputy PM gets $400,016, whilst the Opposition Leader receives an annual salary of $360,990.

After multiple reports over the weekend of politicians double-dipping, specifically in regards to many MPs claiming a travel allowance of $273 per night whilst staying in tax-deductable second homes, the perks of being a politician have been put into the spotlight, with many claiming hundreds of thousands in entitlements on top of already generous remuneration.

Multimillion-dollar homes, chartered flights, travel allowances and golden handshakes – Aussie politicians are using, some may say abusing, taxpayer funds to the tune of millions of dollars each year.

How much does your local MP spend?

Expenditure claimed 1 January to 30 June 2015

And it’s happening on both sides of the political fence. Here’s a rundown of what our politicians currently claim.

  • On top of their generous pay packages, MPs receive an electorate allowance of between $32,000 and $46,000 per year to cover the costs incurred when performing official duties, but any unspent amount is treated as taxable income.
  • Travel allowance for official business ranges from $273 per night for Canberra stays, to $472 for stays in Perth. The PM can claim up to $564 per night for stays away from his home or government residences.
  • An official tax ruling allows ministers to claim up to $1000 per week as travel allowance, even if they stay in homes they own. On top of that, they receive deductions on all expenses for their second residence, for things such as electricity, insurance and property maintenance. Then, if they were to sell that property, it would be capital gains tax-free.
  • MPs receive unlimited business class domestic flights and a car with driver for official purposes. They can also claim their own private vehicle for both work and personal use if their electorate is 10,000 square km or larger. All overseas transport, accommodation, meals and associated travel costs with ministerial and official visits, delegations and study are also at the expense of the taxpayer.
  • Up to nine business class return trips to Canberra for the minister and their partner are covered, along with three trips for each child and three business class interstate trips for partners and children. Ministers on official business also receive unlimited travel for their partners.
  • A minister is allowed to keep gifts from industry and private benefactors, so long as they are not worth more than $300. Gifts valued at up to $750 are allowed to be kept so long as they are from a government source.
  • Up to $50,000 is allowed for office facilities with another $100,000 allowable for administration costs.
  • As far as superannuation goes, MPs who signed up prior to 2004 receive 11.5 per cent of their salary paid into super (for up to 18 years), then 5.75 per cent after. Add to that the ‘golden handshake lump-sum payments and generous pensions based on years of service. Any politician who joined after 2004 receives 15.4 per cent of their salary paid into super for 18 years.
  • Once an MP who joined Parliament before 2012 retires, they receive a Life Gold Pass for unlimited travel within Australia. Those who joined after 2012 receive severance travel allowances for up to 10 trips per year.
  • MPs who retire involuntarily get a resettlement allowance of three months’ salary plus another three months if they served for more than a full term in government.
  • And former PMs receive a multitude of allowances at the discretion of the current PM.

Over the weekend, Labor made the call to re-examine the section of the tax office ruling that deals with second residences, to bring it in line with “community standards”. It’s possible that this week’s criticism of political entitlements across the board may result in a broader enquiry.

Read more at www.news.com.au

Opinion: Time pollies lived within their means

The first question to ask is, “do our politicians receive too much for achieving very little?”

It may sound sceptical, nay cynical, but in the real world remuneration is supposed to be based on performance. With that in mind, the fact that our politicians are already the recipients of incredibly generous rates of pay and are able to claim so many perks on top seems almost preposterous to me.

Sure, one could argue that these entitlements are part of the cost of running the country, and many of them are, but isn’t it fair for us to ask if there is scope for reducing some of these perks instead of cutting the essential services of hard-working Australians? After all, we’re the ones who pay their wages.

The most obvious one to go after is the travel allowance double-dipping but, after reading about all the added bonuses that come along with being an Aussie politician, it seems that there could be more fat to cut from the budget.

For example, at the time of writing, a QANTAS domestic flight to Canberra can cost as little as $115 from Sydney and up to $365 from Darwin. Business class flights, on the other hand, cost $619 from Sydney, $769 from Melbourne or $1970 from Perth. A flight from Perth to Canberra takes just under four hours.

We can all do the maths, but the question remains, is it necessary for pollies to travel business class for a maximum four-hour trip? Especially when we, the Aussie taxpayer, are faced with increased health care costs, cuts to essential services, caps on super, increased cost of goods and other services? Most Australians will never sit in business class, many cannot even afford the cost of a flight to, well, anywhere. And do we need to remind our politicians that 2.5 million Australians live in poverty?

The Government preaching that we should all “live within our means” and that the “age of entitlement is over” seems rather hypocritical. Isn’t it time our politicians put our money where their mouths are?

There is an old Jewish saying of which I was recently made aware and that I’m sure many of you will have heard before: “The fish rots from the head down.” I think it’s relevant in this case.

If the Government is asking us to tighten our belts and live within our means, then it best start doing it themselves. Why should we struggle through each day when our nation’s leaders are receiving an average wage of just under $200,000 and claiming untold entitlements on top? And no one party is exempt from this criticism either.

Sure, Labor is making waves about travel allowances, but its own ministers are just as guilty of abusing this privilege as those of the Coalition. Pot calling the kettle black, anyone?

I could go on about this all day, but I’m more interested in what you have to say about the matter. Do you think these entitlements are fair? Should we have to foot such an exorbitant bill for our politicians to do a mediocre job of running our country? Should they lead by example and start living within their means? If they did, would that influence your vote in Election 2016? Should their remuneration be performance based (i.e. tied to key performance indicators such as GDP, unemployment, terms of trade, etc)?

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca is a voracious reader who loves words. You'll often find him spending time in galleries, writing, designing, painting, drawing, or photographing and documenting street art. He has a publishing and graphic design background and loves movies and music, but then, who doesn’t?

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209 Comments

Total Comments: 209
  1. 0
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    Quoted from History of Ford in Australia – Letter to Shareholders Canada, from Hubert French of Ford 1923:
    ‘The way the automobile situation is handled in Australia is a crime.’
    ‘With regard to establishing a plant in Australia, there are certain disadvantages.’
    ‘Should a company be started its troubles would be broadly classed under three headings
    1 bad government, 2 labour troubles, 3 bad transportation.’
    Under bad government would come the triangular fight which is going on in parliament at the present time between nationalists, farmers and labor. These parties are nearly equal in all houses and no party can hope to govern without the help of one of the other parties!’
    ‘The lack of security of tenure of office tends towards a weak government policy which naturally is bad.’
    “Australia’s great disease is over government. Thirteen houses of parliament, six Governors and one Governor General, all appointed by Britain speaks for itself, especially when it is borne in mind that no MP receives less than 500 pounds per annum.
    The population at this time was 6 million!

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      Great observations Bes. The problem is we need a truly INDEPENDENT arbitrator (not vested interests looking for continued work!) to make put the perks of our politicians into real perspective. Unlikely any Party will vote for that. Even Mr ‘No’, Tony Abbott voted with Labor for huge pay increases for MPs.
      There was an interesting debate on Q&A last night. The question about one of the rorts was put to Christopher Pyne…..who fobbed off the question by stating that this would need to be looked at by the Independent Remuneration Tribunal…..the same one which all but doubled MP salaries in 3 years and which presides over the self interest sham we have. Independent? Not a chance. The tribunal is an arm government which would sack this tribunal if it did not do what the greedy bastards wanted.
      “Live with their means”? Only for the rest of society but not for our political representatives.

    • 0
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      MICK, do you have any idea what the Independent Remuneration Tribunal consists of? Who appoints the members? How many members there are? You post suggests that you haven’t a clue and you have just gone off half-cocked once more. The Tribunal members are appointed by the Governor General and there are three members, two of whom are connected with private enterprise. As far as can be seen the members are totally independent of politics and it must therefore be assumed that their decisions are non political.

      Should you choose to reply to this post MICK, please stick to the facts and the subject because I’m over your bullying tactics and your need to switch subjects when you are presented by the facts of a discussion.

    • 0
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      Always nice to get a serve from you Old Man and complaints about “bullying”. You sound like a genY with a new word to push.
      Perhaps just for once YOU can provide more information rather than the your normal demands for others to provide you with justification.

      Re: the ‘Independent Remuneration Tribunal’

      You think that independent means independent? I hate to ruin your day but the big end of town is interconnected and there is no such thing as ‘independent’. Just looking after the mates. I had a look at the current members:

      1. John Conde – sounds ok.
      2. Ewen Crouch – a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) and much more.
      3. Don’t know who the third member is.

      Whilst I like to be fair it is clear that with some of the decisions we are seeing are the same leap frog games which are played out at company AGMs where CEOs continually are given huge pay increases.

      Not sure if this is a case of vested interests. The question really is do the members of the tribunal also contract for government work…and win the contracts. What do you say? You seem to know a fair bit about this?

    • 0
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      MICK, I don’t think I have agreed with you too many times over the last couple of years BUT, WHOARRR, I do on this one mate.

    • 0
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      Thanks MICK, you have provided nothing but an opinion based on God knows what again plus your usual bit of personal putdown. You have inferred that two of the members of the Tribunal are taking backhanders without any shred of evidence. I still maintain that they are independent of government and will continue to do so until I am shown otherwise.

    • 0
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      Once again, this tribunal should be filled by popular vote.

      Put your name and creds up for public scrutiny and let’s see who the people feel should determine the pay and perks of their politician servants….

      I doubt some bloke from the ‘institute of company directors’ would get a look in.

      BTW – the GG would most likely only sign off on a list of names presented – not actually draw the names out of a hat – now there’s another good idea…. send your name on a slip of paper to Peter Cosgrove for selection from the hat…

    • 0
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      Old Man: Instead of your usual demands for proof please come up with your own. The issue which should be being discussed is THE MONEY TRAIL. If you think that a so called ‘independent’ tribunal is fact then why did this tribunal almost double federal MPs pay packets when they would be fully aware that Australian politicians are the best paid on the planet?
      Independent? Are you serious? Please provide the proof that the ‘Independent Remuneration Tribunal’ is independent. The evidence says no.
      And for the record carry on like a disaffected 5 year old in the school playground if you like. I’m not buying.

  2. 0
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    I would seriously doubt that no more than a few politicians would want “any” change to their entitlements.

    Being on the “gravy” train is too good…so why would they change anything!

    • 0
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      A closed shop.

    • 0
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      About time you got here to sort them out Mick ! 🙂
      I think the Perks are making them Purk ? 🙂

    • 0
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      Gravy train sounds good but I have seen better behaviour with pigs at the feeding trough than or politicians. If only we could put them on the same basic income at others perhaps they would learn how to behave (but how many would show their criminal sides)

    • 0
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      The way our politicians are portrayed as pigs with their snouts in the trough is incredibly apt. They aren’t just satisfied with having the best conditions, they milk them for all they are worth and when challenged, become very indignant. My local federal member got so uptight about it when he was taken to task over claiming the travel allowance I thought he was going to punch someone. According to him the fact that he stays in a home in Canberra his wife owns and then has the temerity to claim the full travel allowance is all above board and voters have no right to complain about it. He feels it is all quite OK that voters are paying for a house in his wifes name that no doubt he will benefit from too. Politicians do the same for me as Laxettes do.

  3. 0
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    Time we reigned in the “Snouts in the Trough Brigade”……we need to make the trough smaller or cut off the snouts..

    • 0
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      So vote for an Independent. Both sides cringe at the thought…because accountable government would occur. Independent senators is the only thing which prevented the unprecedented attack of Abbott inc. from becoming legislation.

    • 0
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      if we made the trough smaller they would just cut the numbers and some would miss out but the top fat cats would remain and still have their snouts in the trough and get the same amount. Cant teach old dogs new tricks and this lot know them all already

  4. 0
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    This is a disgusting use of taxpayers money which would be better spent elsewhere. why should pollies get a travel allowance to and from work? we dont! why should should they travel business class and not domestic? why do partners get included in travel allowance?they could stay home or pay their own way. why should they get all the deductions for second residence and not pay utility bills? I think pollies go into parliament for these wroughts and personal gain rather that being for the people. think of how much would be saved and put back into areas that are needed

    • 0
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      I agree 100% Lci, and I would like to see just ONE Australian TV station, show ONE ounce of GUTS, and ask Malcolm Turnball ONE question in front of the camera.
      The question is, THE AVERAGE AUSSIE’S PAY, STOPS WHEN HE STOPS WORK……. AN AUSSIE POLLITICIANS pay continues till he dies, is that FARE?….When Turnball says, that is determined by an independent tribunal, the interviewer says, “Yes I know that, but the question was do you think it is fare”? “Come on you SOOK, Yes or No”?
      Also, make it Turnball’s first question without notice in his whole life.

    • 0
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      Hardly an independent tribunal – a panel loaded with old mates who in turn have their salaries paid by government. Now if it was a publicly elected body……..

      About as independent as the late unlamented but costly royal commission…. which netted one shady deal between a manager and a Union man…. but only ended with the Union man charged….

      Yeah – that’s independent…..

    • 0
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      Straight from George Orwell’s Animal Farm: “all pigs are equal….it’s just that some pigs are more equal than others”.

    • 0
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      All good points Lci. Nothing will change though when you have the people affected making the decisions.

    • 0
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      A few months ago, my wife and I were returning from Townsville, in economy class, and who should sit down next to her but Bob Katter. Now there’s someone who doesn’t believe in rorting the public purse.

  5. 0
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    The only way this will change is if the general public organise themselves based on their respective electorates. This needs to start at the Marginal Seats, get a commitment from the parties standing for election, target the major parties and unseat the sitting member sending a message to whoever is elected that if things don’t change, they will be unseated next election.
    It takes a bit of organising, but with the use of social media anything is possible.
    So, who wants to join the Revolution?

    • 0
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      Maybe. I still say vote in Independents and put the cleaners through both sides. The media taking up this issue would help too. Not much sign of that.

  6. 0
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    Is there any organisation to fight peacefully to change all that? let me know, would like to joint. What about the GEO of the post office, around 4.5 millions $ a year and the post office is losing money. Can we change all that . How?

  7. 0
    0

    It’s been going on for years doesn’t take a genius to work it out.brown paper bags been around for years.big companies donating anything from cash to favours.lately it’s lawyers donating cash from mafia.travel rorts wife’s renting houses back to their husbands and relatives.polies kids using gov cars like taxis.retired polies with office secretary and car gold cards for travel a pension nearly ten times that of an ordinary pensioners and they can end up with this in only ten years .these maggots are a drain on our budget but don’t expect it to change because most voters are just sheep

  8. 0
    0

    You have got to be joking the telling of your body to work till the 70 and there are just ripping ripping off the system it is ridiculous how much money they get here absolutely ridiculous when this people living on the streets in the carlike me over three years and I’m looking at these bastards is absolutely disgusting sack the lot of them.

    (comment edited by the moderator)

  9. 0
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    Barnaby’s Travel allowance alone is a Years Old Age Pension ! 🙂
    And I didn’t know we elected his family for over 12 Grands worth of Freebies ? 🙁

  10. 0
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    It would be a big mistake not to reward politicians generously. Firstly it would be difficult to attract good people to this important vocation if it were badly paid on top of being insecure of tenure and underappreciated in general – if you are a politician bad luck if you are looking for someone to thank you, or tell you you’re doing a good job. Secondly, when power goes insufficiently rewarded you can expect greater levels of corruption. Some people think that anyone can be a good politician. They vote for Pauline Hanson or Clive Palmer or Jacqui Lambie. Time and time again the failure of populists shows just how difficult it is to be a successful politician. Calling for politicians to be poorly paid misses the point. It smells of envy and opens us up to poor government. And Henry Ford was a gross anti-semite and right wing bully. Good businessman but not someone to whom I would give credence on the subject of good government.

    • 0
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      Richard, the whole world knows you are a cousin of Malcolm Turnball’s, so give it up.

    • 0
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      You can have any Colour Government as long as its Black !! 🙂 🙂

    • 0
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      Quick Screen Shot it !! 🙂

    • 0
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      The issue Richard is not being poorly paid it is the associated perks they enjoy in addition to salary. This “double dipping” of living allowance while still being able to claim a tax deduction on the home they live in while in Canberra is a disgrace.
      Why should they get all those free trips as well as a very generous pension upon leaving Parliament?
      They are actually well paid but, as we know only too well, that hasn’t given us the best people in there.
      They say “pay peanuts you get monkeys” well they are paid a lot more than peanuts but there are quite few monkeys in there.

    • 0
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      We are Sick of Nibbling Nobbys nuts and want Salters nuts now !! 🙂 🙂

    • 0
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      You are right Tom, there are some monkeys. And they should be weeded out at the election. You know, being a successful politician isn’t just a job, it is a vocation. You don’t just work at that role, you have to live it. It is one hell of a personal sacrifice, akin to building your own business. So do we want to attract people who are capable of doing stuff and making a positive difference to our lives? Not a good start if you start penny pinching.

      You are right. There are some monkeys. But there are some really good people in the Australian parliaments too. People who are doing a heck of a good job. Wouldn’t it be good if we could reward them appropriately, and value them accordingly.

      I don’t resent politicians being well rewarded. I only resent them when they prove self-serving – and then I vote against them.

    • 0
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      Really Richard. You ignore the old adage which says ‘if it don’t work stop doing it’. Clearly Liberal/Labor is not working.

      You state “it would be difficult to attract good people”. I am not sure that many pollies are “good people” of any sort. Many are little more than puppets doing what they are told.

      You malign Independents but leave out pollies like Ted Mack and Nick Xenophon who are remarkable examples of good government. Also, your sling at Lambie ignores the fact that she is working for her electorate and she will stand against bad legislation which the puppets will rubber stamp. Even Hanson was not as bad as the politically correct make her out to be. She was wrong about the Vietnamese community (which is fairly benign) but I might suggest we need somebody like Hanson to end the do-gooders bring in millions of Islamic people. this has been a disaster in every nation on the planet and I am glad for somebody to tell it like it is rather than play the music which do-gooders want to hear whilst they lock our nation into internal conflict in the future.
      A vote for an Independent is a vote for proper government and I personally THANK the cross bench senators for blocking the bad bad legislation which was little more than this government’s Class Warfare being acted out.

    • 0
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      The Independents are all on the same payment plans as any other politician. Just saying!

    • 0
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      Mick’s early points are valid in my opinion but we do also need to reward politicians appropriately, careful as Richard suggests in a manner that respects the importance, the value of the vocation.

      More important than the money is the quality of service that we get for it. The depth with which one issue is addressed can be vastly different to that of another or by another member. Likewise, one’s approach to their electorate in suppport of a good connection can be as different to another’s as the size and difficulty of getting around it. It is important that somehow the resources be available to support premium quality response.

      A reasonable base income may be necessary but a mechanism which supports the extra which some put in while perhaps impossible to correctly define would be ideal. The ‘entitlements’ and compensated costs are however a mechanism for dealing with some of the extra that one may require compared with another. I think it is necessary that these be largely maintained. With that the only alternative we may have could be to reduce the waste remaining, in reducing base pay rate and more tightly defining expenditures which are in the nations interest. Not an easy sounding task.

    • 0
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      Fair comment JAID. The trouble with both sides is that they are beholding to big business which sends election funding their way. It’s not free. That is the problem but how else do the morons we vote in get elected other than on the Party banner?
      Yes, happy to reward good politicians. That would not cost us very much at this point in time though.

    • 0
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      MICK I agree with lionising Ted Mack but please don’t mention Xenophon in the same group. Xenophon has carefully slipped under the radar for years, telling the media how poor he is and how he has such a struggle to keep being a senator. He has claimed that this election that he has to mortgage his home to fund his campaign and this may be so but he forgot to mention that his new party stands to gain about $2M from the electoral commission in payment for votes. He also forgot to mention that he has 5 houses.

    • 0
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      Well Richard I sometimes think Jacquie Lambie is the only sensible person in parliament and after all no one is forcing a politician to stay, they knew what they would be in for before they became elected so I don’t want to hear the likes of Mathius Cormman whinging about having to leave his family and home to work in Canberra, quit if you don’t like it.

    • 0
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      “Pay peanuts and you get monkeys.”

      (Trebor-Translation) – “Pay monkeys too many peanuts and all you get is more monkey guano.”

    • 0
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      Old Man: Mack was a right wing conservative. Is that why you approve?

      Re: Xenophon
      The reason why you likely do not like Xenophon is that his Party is standing on “honest and accountable government”. What does that say about you and your beliefs? If you have not already done so have a look at:

      https://nxt.org.au/

      I have tried to be fair with you but it seems you are just another right wing hack trotting out the propaganda.

    • 0
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      *sigh* No MICK, I don’t respect Ted Mack for his politics but for the way he dealt with the way North Sydney Council was run and the way he reduced a lot of wasteful expenditure. I respect him because he resigned from the State parliament one day before he became eligible for a lifetime pension and the way he resigned from the Federal parliament the day before he became eligible for a lifetime pension. His actions showed that he wanted the job to do something for his voters, not to increase his wealth.

      And there you go again, putting inferences in where there is no inference. I have not written nor inferred that I have an opinion on whether I like or dislike Xenophon yet you do your usual bull at a gate response and read into my post something that isn’t there. If you can’t read properly, please get someone to help you.

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