News National We can’t stay in tents: PM

We can’t stay in tents: PM

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Tony Abbott believes the public shouldn’t expect federal MPs to walk to appointments and stay in tents while on the job.

But the prime minister wants the Bronwyn Bishop expenses controversy to be the last Australians hear of an entitlements scandal.

Mr Abbott has commissioned a root-and-branch review of parliamentary entitlements that he hopes will make the system fairer, accountable and transparent.

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But he also believes it must be workable.

While being careful not to defend “excess”, Mr Abbott insists MPs needed to travel.

“Please don’t let anyone think that politicians are confined to base, and if they go anywhere they should walk and stay in a tent,” he told ABC radio in Adelaide on Tuesday.

“That’s just not reasonable.”

The prime minister doesn’t want the public to dwell on the winners and losers of Mrs Bishop’s expenses scandal, but focus on the review.

It was not the first time such issues have emerged.

“I hope it’s the last time,” Mr Abbott later told 5AA radio in Adelaide.

Federal Labor is facing an entitlements controversy of its own as it deals with allegations frontbencher Tony Burke took his family on a taxpayer-funded trip to Uluru.

Mr Burke charged the taxpayer for his family to travel business class at a cost several times that available through regular economy travel packages, The Australian reported on Tuesday.

Questions have also been raised over a week-long overseas trip to Europe by Mr Burke, during his time as environment minister, where his expenses averaged $10,000 a day, it said.

The government has also promised to look at outstanding issues around expenses amid criticism not enough was done after the system previously came under scrutiny.

Allan Fels, a member of the 2009-10 Belcher review, says many of the committee’s recommendations weren’t adopted, including a proposal to include a link to MPs’ expenses on their websites.

Independent senator Nick Xenophon has vowed to push on with legislation reining in entitlements.

His private bill could dovetail with the government’s review, to be conducted by former Department of Finance secretary David Tune and Remuneration Tribunal chairman John Conde, he said.


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