Senator’s debt waived

The Federal Government has decided to waive former senator Bob Day’s debt to the nation, after being told Mr Day may not be able to repay his senator salary.

Mr Day resigned in November last year for effectively earning salary from taxpayers as well as collecting rent from them.

In April this year, the High Court ruled that he had held his position and been voting in Parliament illegally for almost two years.

Earlier this year, former senator Rod Culleton was also disqualified from the Senate for being personally responsible for around $6 million in debt owed by a company he owned.

The Senate and Department of Finance pursued Mr Day and Mr Culleton for the repayment of the salaries paid to them during their time in office. This also included the repayment of allowances, money paid to staff and all office costs.

Both men received letters to that effect, informing them that they potentially owed hundreds of thousands of dollars between them.

Mr Day requested that the ‘unfair’ debt be waived. Mr Culleton has been advised by the Special Minister of State, Senator Scott Ryan, that he too has the option to do the same.

Late last week, the Federal Government waived Bob Day’s debt, with Senator Ryan saying the claim may not be fair.

“It may be seen to be inequitable for the Commonwealth to recover the debt, given Mr Day performed his duties as a senator in good faith,” said Mr Ryan.

“The [advisory] committee also noted Mr Day’s personal financial circumstances.”

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce says that waiving Mr Day’s debt was “common sense” and a fair outcome.

“I’m sure that Bob Day, he was actually doing a job, he was down here, he was at work … it’s not as if he was employed somewhere else, so you know I think it’s a fair call,” said Mr Joyce.

And Mr Joyce has also advised Mr Culleton to walk the same path as Mr Day.

“Rod Culleton, for all his sins, I think he was genuinely at work and trying to do things – just that he shouldn’t have been here in the first place,” he said.

“That was a problem, so you’ve got to have some leniency. They’ve had a look at it and said, ‘look we’ll waive it’ – well they’ve offered to him that they’ll waive it.

“If I was him, and Rod if you’re listening out there, I would reply.”

Opinion: Government hypocrisy at its most transparent

The decision to waive Mr Day’s debt is the very definition of hypocrisy – and, again, graphically illustrates a Government rubbing double standards into the face of average Australians.

Imagine that a single mother of three has a sick child on a morning she is expected to show up for a job interview. She can’t make the interview. The Department of Human Services (DHS) is informed and she promptly has her welfare payments discontinued.

Or how about the numerous Australians being ordered to repay debts that are either incorrect, or owed for honest mistakes in reporting?

This is a Government chasing down Australians for owing $20 on a tax return or Centrelink overpayment.

Yet it says that trying to get two politicians to repay salaries and allowances they were paid for a position they illegally held is ‘inequitable’.

Really? Chasing down hundreds of thousands of dollars paid to two questionable politicians is ‘inequitable’?

What a crock.

I’m sorry, but we paid these men a fortune to do a job that they should not have been allowed to do. They have not acted in good faith. It is very difficult to believe that Rod Culleton didn’t know that his company was in debt or that Bob Day didn’t know he was leasing his building to a government department. They have both acted questionably and should be forced to repay at least some of the money the Australian taxpayer has invested in them. That is the standard by which average Australians are judged. Why not the people who are supposed to create and enforce those same laws?

This is a Government hunting down pensioners, low-income families and welfare recipients who can’t rub two pennies together.

I suppose it’s no surprise that, again, the top end is protected while the average Australian is screwed. Someone needs to question this double standard and why our politicians and the wealthy seem to be above the laws which the rest of us are expected to observe.

Do you think that Mr Day and Mr Culleton should repay their salaries? Is the Senate and Finance Department ruling fair? Should our politicians be subject to the same rules as the rest of us? Or are they above the law?

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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