Draper - some pespective, please

What a tired saga the Trish Draper story is. Yes, she was in the wrong. Yes, she exercised appalling judgement. Yes, she's become a political liability, in the short term at least. But let's put it in perspective - this is the suggestion that 4 years ago, $5000 may or may not have been spent by an MP in contravention of the government guidelines. Today Tonight had the story, and a court injunction later, the story hit the airwaves last night.

Only the most ardent and one-eyed of the John Howard Army will come out and defend Draper's actions as being in line with the guidelines for claiming spouse/de facto travel entitlements. This is not in dispute.

Instead, there is a strong case to be made that there is much more significant unjustifiable waste and petty corruption in the highest levels of government that put Draper's misspending to shame. Have a look at how many millions taxpayers have been jibbed through a wink-and-a-nod agreement over the leasing of Cententary House in Canberra during the dying days of the Keating government? Have a look at how many millions were wasted in political propaganda dressed up as government information in the introduction of the GST, Medicare Plus etc. Have a look at how much is being wasted right now in the flinging of mud between state Labor governments and a coalition federal government over the allocation of grants to the states.

The waste in all this spending is exponentially higher than the waste attributed to Draper. True, these stories are less sexy than the Draper scandal (full marks, BTW, to Today Tonight for incorporation shots of a porno website into the story, tabloid producers around the world would be in awe) but the amount of waste is far more significant, and equally as blatant.


Brent said…
Heya Ari

I do agree with you that there are more significant example of government mismanagement and waste, as you point out, Centenary House and the government's $100 million 'education' campaign (I railed against the latter at yesterday's PIS meeting).

However, I think that partly misses the point of the TT story. The one angle I think they failed to press home enough was the hypocrisy of politicians, such as Amanda Vanstone (Minister formerly overseeing Centrelink) who for years have taken the toughest line against those in the Social Security system who get benefits who don't deserve them. Yet when an MP defrauds the Commonwealth, the government members (OK, Eric Abetz), say that its not appropriate to look into people's private lives. I refer you to page 15 of Centrelink's 'Information you need to know about your claim for Youth Allowance and Austudy':

For the purposes of Youth Allowance and Austudy, a partner is a person of the opposite sex you are married to or are living with in a marriage-like relationship.

A marriage-like relationship is determine by circumstances including:
~ financial aspects of the relationship
~ nature of the household
~ social aspects of the relationship
~ any sexual relationship; and
~ nature of the people's commitment to each other.

I won't go into the discriminatory nature of these rules against same sex couples, (and the fact that similar discriminatory rules apply for MPs too). My point is, if it's good enough for Centrelink to administer a system whereby you have to demonstrate to quite lengthy degrees whether you're in a 'marriage-like relationship' to get an extra hundred bucks a week and this applies to hundreds of thousands of Australians, why can't similar rules apply to the couple of hundred federal MPs who are getting free 'study tours'?
Ari Sharp said…
Brent makes a fair point that different standards are used to determine who is a spouse according to parliamentary travel rules compared to the rules used by Centrelink. I disagree that the media focus has been on the double standard that exists in this area, and instead the focus has been on a 'snouts-in-the-trough' image of Trish Draper and her then-partner gouging from the hard-working-honest-days-work-honest-days-pay taxpayer.

It's been interesting to watch Howard squirm these past few days, as a proud defender of the institution of marriage, to see one of his underlings reap the benefits of a marriage-like relationship without any of the commitment of tying the knot. The marrital calculus is only going to get tougher, as well, as the issue of gay marriage re-enters the political fray.

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