02 August, 2015

What’s really wrong with the system

Bronwyn Bishop has accepted the inevitable and resigned as Speaker. Whether she jumped or was pushed will be debated for the next week.

However, if you believe Tony Abbott as he announced the resignation (and why would the head of government call a press conference to announce the Speaker’s resignation anyway?), it’s not Ms Bishop’s fault. She just got caught up in a flawed system.

Abbott was right to look contrite during the announcement as well he should. He knows full well that when it comes to dubious expenses claims, there but for the grace of God goes he. It’s no wonder he should seek to blame the system:
“What has become apparent, particularly over the last few days, is that the problem is not any particular individual; the problem is the entitlement system more generally.”
What utter rubbish!

Bronwyn Bishop has always maintained that all her claims were allowed under the rules and there’s a good chance they probably were. That certainly shows a problem in the system, but no-one forced Ms Bishop or any of her colleagues to make those claims.

The biggest flaw in the parliamentary expenses system is that it assumes MPs are honourable and decent people who will not abuse it. There’s nothing wrong with the system that can’t be fixed by MPs behaving ethically and honestly.

So if Mr Abbott’s argument is that the system makes it possible for the selfish and unscrupulous to milk taxpayers for millions over a parliamentary career as long as Ms Bishop’s, then I agree. But is he sure that’s how he wants to present himself and his colleagues – as people who will grab as much as they can possibly get if they’re given the opportunity? If you say so, Tony!

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