Herald Sun

Speaker in a deadly spi­ral

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HAD the Her­ald Sun not re­vealed that Speaker Bron­wyn Bishop used a tax­payer-funded he­li­copter to take her to a Lib­eral Party fundraiser, her breach of par­lia­men­tary rules might never have been dis­cov­ered.

Party fund fests are not nor­mally con­sid­ered of­fi­cial par­lia­men­tary busi­ness and Ms Bishop should know it.

Even so, it has taken three days for her to cough up the cash and that with­out an apol­ogy to the Aus­tralian taxpayers whose money she was mis­us­ing.

Even Trea­surer Joe Hockey ad­mit­ted Ms Bishop’s flight of fancy didn’t pass the “sniff test”. The smell might not be of cor­rup­tion, but there is an air of ar­ro­gance about the way some politi­cians use their par­lia­men­tary en­ti­tle­ments.

Ms Bishop is Par­lia­ment’s stan­dard bearer, but the stan­dards she de­mands of MPs ap­pear far greater than those to which she holds her­self. A vet­eran Lib­eral MP from the Syd­ney seat of Mackel­lar, Ms Bishop has let down the Aus­tralian peo­ple as well as her­self.

Yet, while promis­ing to re­pay the $5227 for the he­li­copter flight when she could so easily have used a Com­mon­wealth car for the re­turn trip be­tween Mel­bourne and Gee­long, she re­mains de­fen­sive. Even this has a whiff of elitism about it. A state­ment was is­sued from her of­fice declar­ing Ms Bishop had acted out of her “con­cern for the coun­try”.

In­stead of at­tempt­ing to give her trip to Vic­to­ria the aura of a royal progress to ad­dress the faith­ful, Ms Bishop might have shown more con­cern for the taxpayers.

What has hap­pened can­not be ex­cused as ig­no­rance or over­sight when MPs have been made aware on count­less oc­ca­sions of the need to re­strict their tax­payer-funded travel to es­tab­lished guide­lines. MPs must sign forms ac­knowl­edg­ing that it is a crim­i­nal of­fence to mis­use travel en­ti­tle­ments.

The of­fice of Speaker must set a stan­dard for oth­ers to fol­low and Ms Bishop must ex­plain her­self fully to the public and the Par­lia­ment.

As Speaker, Ms Bishop does not have to seek per­mis­sion to make char­ter flights, but they have to be within the rules that in the opin­ion of this news­pa­per she has clearly flouted.

The Speaker says she had been told the char­ter flight was within those rules, but these are weasel words. Even if some­one did tell her that, she should have known bet­ter.

Ms Bishop knows the Stand­ing Or­ders from cover to cover. Pre­sum­ably, she also know the rules that gov­ern her con­duct as well as that of the MPs over whom she pre­sides. If she doesn’t, she should re­turn to the gov­ern­ment benches.

For­mer Lib­eral MP Peter Slip­per re­signed as Speaker over the al­leged mis­use of travel en­ti­tle­ments. He was con­victed but found not guilty on ap­peal.

Fol­low­ing her fail­ure to fully ex­plain her ac­tions, Ms Bishop’s con­duct must be in­ves­ti­gated by Par­lia­ment. The Speaker could be in for a bumpy flight.

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