Disgraced senators subject to different rules than pensioners

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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 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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130 Comments

Total Comments: 130
  1. 0
    0

    Perhaps there are background issues I know nothing about. As with court decisions I largely accept that those reviewing are better informed than I and that they have the right to make decisions.

    I hope leniency is extended when the work is done or requirement fulfilled and while the intention is good wherever government may find the problem. The amounts involved may be radically different but the $20 or the missed interview is no different. There are notable instances of leniency not being shown but many instances of leniency go unnoticed. Sad that some are caught up unnecessarily while fine-tuning goes on.

    • 0
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      One comparison could be the treatment handed out to Mr Day, Mr Culleton and Ms B. Bishop (not to be confused with Ms Julie Bishop)and the treatment heaped on Mr Slipper. Mr Slipper was hounded with the full force of the law while the other 3 were mildly rebuked. Then look at the thousands of Social Security recipients who have, and are, being hounded by Centrelink’s so called Robodebt for what are, in a lot of cases, paltry sums.
      This suggest to me that the government is more concerned with cultivating Mr Day’s and Mr Culleton’s successors in the Senate, and if it costs writing off a few hundred thousand dollars of taxpayers money the government considers it is money well spent. As for Ms Bishop, she was one of the clique so she had to be looked after.
      If our PM could donate over $1M to the liberal party surely he, or the Liberal Party, can afford to cough up the debts owed my Mr Day and Mr Culleton to the Senate so the taxpayer is not out of pocket.

    • 0
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      Always plenty more where that came from, Eddy – don’t forget that politicians are daily dealing with billions of dollars so a few miserable hundred thou forgiven to one of their own is nothing…

      Let Jo Bloggs try it on though… for ten bucks owing to the Good Colonel C’Link…

    • 0
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      Let’s just keep it simple – these are crooks helping their own kind!!! Just in case, some day they need the same kindness in return!
      Of course, it’s not their money, it’s OURS.

    • 0
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      These people make me sick. It’s no wonder they are held in such utter contempt when they carry on about “dole bludgers” and “welfare cheats” and then do something like this. They are thieves and robbers.

  2. 0
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    Perhaps the real question should be if bad behaviour is only applicable to some parties and not others. Should entitlements be and/or pensions be cancelled when you do not belong to a certain party whilst it should be if you belong to another?
    Bronwyn Bishop may have been pushed out of politics but why did she not have her pension cancelled? And why do others who abuse their entitlements have no case to answer other than a rebuke? I can’t remember if Bronny had to repay all of her helicopter rides but should have been compelled to do so as a starting point.
    There are rules which appear to be relevant to which Party you belong to. The same behaviours are a minor misdemeanour if you belong to one party whilst being corruption of the worst kind if you are in another.
    Let’s call this out for what it is, double standards and dishonesty.

    • 0
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      MICK, whilst I agree with a part of your comment, I don’t agree with your characterisation that only one party gets punished. If you care to itemise the crimes that one party has been punished for and the crimes that another party has had treated as a misdemeanour then we can discuss your allegations further. I’m in NSW and just this week an ex-politician has had bail refused and put in gaol, as has a union leader, for corruption. They join another ex-politician who has benn gaoled for the same offence. There is another ex-politician who is serving time for paedophilia. Are you saying that one side is doing these things and getting away with it?

      I have said here before that the problem with politician’s rorts is not that they do it but that they are doing it within guidelines. There is a system in place that allows all of these payments to be made and the watchdogs are not doing their jobs. Politicians of all sides make appointments to meet with interested parties in other cities or states within their areas of responsibility, take 5 minutes to complete the job and then wander about doing whatever they want for as long as they want and put the whole trip down to “work” related expenses.

      It’s a safe bet that while they add on extra ways to rort the system that no previous rorts are removed. It is most likely that the expense to stable their horse and groom are still on the statutes. What is needed is for the ATO to be the watchdog. We all did battle each year trying to scab a couple of dollars as a deduction to try and get a tax rebate so why don’t politicians get put through the same rigorous process.

    • 0
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      I think, Old Man – that Mick is saying that whichever party is in the hot seat labels it the most vile corruption of the other side.. regardless of whether it is Labor or Liberal…

      Apparently the majority in Parliament party gets to call it a crime, whether it is or not.

    • 0
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      Perhaps we have read MICK’s comments differently, TREBOR. If we read it your way then it is hard to explain why a minister was stood down after being charged with sex offences which resulted in gaol time. Perhaps we should allow MICK to speak for himself?

    • 0
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      Just reading down further TREBOR, I think you are being too generous in your interpretation of MICK’s comments. Later posts tend to support my theory that MICK has a bias against the Coalition. I know he claims to be unbiased, even totally impartial, but his words tend to belie that position.

    • 0
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      Umm – I think he says he doesn’t vote for either but picks the eyes out of both when they deserve it…. but he does have a point over the double standard. I forgot the Slipper thing in comparison to certain others… he could have a point…

  3. 0
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    Mick – Just for the record, BB was beaten in a Liberal Party Pre Selection ballot. She paid back the cost of the ”copter flight plus a fine.

    • 0
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      I understand that the helicopter flight in question was not the first time. Was she required to pay back the rest?
      At the heart of my post was the understanding that indiscretions are treated differently depending which party you are in.

    • 0
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      Yes, she just happened to get caught out on that one.

  4. 0
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    All politicians, in fact everyone should be subject to the same rules and penalties. This should apply to dishonest transactions, failure to pay debts, superannuation entitlements and pensions. It would appear that the more money you have the more dishonest you are!

  5. 0
    0

    I’m not sure hypocrisy is right here. Bob Day and to a lesser extend Rod Culleton turned up and did a job and they where paid for the work they did. Whether they where really eligible to stand for those positions was a matter for the courts.

    A welfare recipient who claimed benefits and where not eligible hasn’t done anything that you can suggest would mitigate their responsibility to repay the money which wasn’t rightfully theirs.

    As always emotive descriptions are used to try and prove a point but its a stretch to suggest both situations are the same. The Senators fulfilled a job until it was found they should no longer be there. A welfare recipient is just accepting more than they should.

    • 0
      0

      And remember they are not in the coalition. I suggest that their ‘sins’ may have been relegated to minor misdemeanours were they a part of the coalition.

    • 0
      0

      Gee MICK, your bias has popped up once more. Did you read the article where a member of the Coalition, Joyce, has gone in to bat for these guys?

    • 0
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      Old Man
      Just proves the old saying:”Birds of a feather flock together”.
      Obviously, no matter what Creed, GREED of Colour

    • 0
      0

      Phil what you failed to acknowledge is that one of these senators was ‘trading whilst insolvent’. That is wrong and disqualified him from being a senator. This activity was occurring some time early in his parliamentary career. He can bleat all he likes about not knowing, didn’t realise, etc. etc. As an officer holder in a company he owned he should have know. NO IFs, NO BUTs.

      The second has also being saying the same about his breaches of both the criminal and corporate codes that govern our actions in this community.

      Politicians claim they are community leaders and as such need to be held to a higher level of honesty, integrity and good governance. Why? Because that’s the way it is. NO IFs, … NO BUTs.

    • 0
      0

      Phil what you failed to acknowledge is that one of these senators was ‘trading whilst insolvent’. That is wrong and disqualified him from being a senator. This activity was occurring some time early in his parliamentary career. He can bleat all he likes about not knowing, didn’t realise, etc. etc. As an officer holder in a company he owned he should have know. NO IFs, NO BUTs.

      The second has also being saying the same about his breaches of both the criminal and corporate codes that govern our actions in this community.

      Politicians claim they are community leaders and as such need to be held to a higher level of honesty, integrity and good governance. Why? Because that’s the way it is. NO IFs, … NO BUTs.

    • 0
      0

      Phil what you failed to acknowledge is that one of these senators was ‘trading whilst insolvent’. That is wrong and disqualified him from being a senator. This activity was occurring some time early in his parliamentary career. He can bleat all he likes about not knowing, didn’t realise, etc. etc. As an officer holder in a company he owned he should have know. NO IFs, NO BUTs.

      The second has also being saying the same about his breaches of both the criminal and corporate codes that govern our actions in this community.

      Politicians claim they are community leaders and as such need to be held to a higher level of honesty, integrity and good governance. Why? Because that’s the way it is. NO IFs, … NO BUTs.

  6. 0
    0

    These two issues should be no different to an “ordinary citizen” who would have to pay up as I’m having money deducted from my fortnightly age pension for an overpayment to me .
    Also,pensioners can only earn a limited amount before losing their pension payments , but retired pollies can retire on $200k per year and then get a job for the same or more money .
    Double standards , to suit themselves ,disgraceful behaviour ,the pollies should all be ashamed of their attitudes towards the voters , keep that in mind !

    • 0
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      Yes pixii SPOT ON

    • 0
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      Yes. There should be a totally independent board of citizens, selected by a random process similar to jury duty, who decide politicians salaries, entitlements and all income and repayment issues. Legal issues should be decided by the courts but with a jury as well.

      There has been much talk of fairness and equality and equity but the situation in Australia is fraught with huge inequality and injustices.

      There is a decided lack of common sense and decency in almost any issue being discussed today.

      Being treated as if we are too stupid to realise the truth is so frustrating and super annoying. Especially when Blind Freddy can see the people in power are selfish, greedy and often corrupt as well.

    • 0
      0

      Now there, Rae, is an idea worth considering.

    • 0
      0

      Yes, I hear what is being said in this thread, particularly about an “independent board … who decide politicians salaries,” etc. Actually we do have a form of that now – not quite what Rae has suggested.

      I think maybe a better approach would be to give citizens a ‘recall’ right on those who they elect. For instance, in California if you don’t like what your governor is doing you can start up a partition, get 50,000 signatures (think that’s the number) and institute a debate in the legislature to recall the governor and throw him out.

      Should be ditto for our politician maybe. They don’t do what the electorate want or commit a transgression then we as their electors can choose to throw them out. With that hanging over their heads, bet you’d see a change in their behaviour. No different to any other tax payer in our community. If you do the wrong thing at work, OUT YOU GO.

    • 0
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      Yes Waiting. A great deal of government actions would fall into the category of sedition if we had a media on the case.

      The ‘sale’ of the Port of Darwin and the fiasco unfolding regarding Adani being just two examples.

  7. 0
    0

    Of course they should repay the taxpayers’ money. Criminals must pay. Australians need to unite and demand this. However too many can’t be bothered, too busy trying to make a living, etc.

  8. 0
    0

    The politicians have one Lorle onto themselves everybody should be on the same all but we’re not they increase their wages by taking off Pensioners it’s a disgrace 12 flights a year three claiming for hotels that you do not stopping God knows what else that is a hell of a lot more that people don’t know about that suck the lot of the bastards They are nothing but leeches how can they justify I’ve been on 250,000 a year for what she did and falling to sleep in parliament doing fuck all for the pensioners suck the lot of the bastards

  9. 0
    0

    I’m no great lover of politicians – but somehow this doesn’t seem right. He has accepted personal responsibility for business debts – something most corporate vultures never do – and at the time he was working as a Senator, he may have been still attempting to resolve business issues.

    Without all the facts it’s a bit hard to say, but I hardly think he was ‘disgraced’ as a Senator, but rather failed in business.

    It’s not as if he was in a safe position like, say, a Hockey or a Turnbull, with nice salaried position and using that for personal gain in business etc, via their positions in ‘merchant banks’ – this man, like many, tried to run a REAL business off his own bat and failed, as so many do.

    I’d say he was at least honourable in those intentions, and this in no real way reflects on his performance as a Senator.

    • 0
      0

      Day was not a grand thief like many before him and I think he got a raw deal from both the government and the media. If the media went after Liberal Party and Labor Party crooks with the same fervour likely 10% or more of sitting members would be gone.
      The other issue is the media often ‘chooses’ not to go after an MP, even when it knows that the MP is dirty. How does that work? And more importantly why?

    • 0
      0

      I think I am taking umbrage at the term ‘disgrace’ – especially when in reference to his political position.

      He’s another failed business person – there are many of those around.

    • 0
      0

      It is a breach of corporate laws governing the actions of company office holders to permit a company to ‘trade whilst insolvent’. Treat him like every other company director who does the same. The fact that he maybe trying to return investors, creditors, etc. monies is what he should be doing. The fact that a large no. of bankrupts simply walk away WILL NEVER alter the fact the “honourable” Senator broke the law. I wouldn’t class it as “failing in business”. I class it as breaking the law and as such he disqualified himself from representing our community.

      What you want to change the Constitution to allow him back because he says he’s trying to pay back the money he owes creditors, customers, investors, etc? Go for it.

  10. 0
    0

    If only I could be elected I would shorten a lot of the bastards out talk about Pauline Arnesen should be an angel compare to what I would be number one normal benefits no more getting the pension of 200 songs and are you know more free rides on the taxpayers Cancel shuffled and Kais perfect on hotel fees if you’re on flights but the time I finish with them did they wish and never, politician nothing but bastards

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