Flight plan’s a tax saver

Kalgoorlie Miner - - FRONT PAGE - Ja­son Men­nell

Tax­pay­ers will ben­e­fit from One Na­tion State MP Robin Scott’s vic­to­ri­ous 18-month bat­tle to change the rules sur­round­ing the use of his pri­vate aero­plane to ser­vice his elec­torate.

The Salaries and Al­lowances Tri­bunal de­ci­sion means Mr Scott can travel to re­mote com­mu­ni­ties across the vast Min­ing and Pas­toral Re­gion at a frac­tion of the cost of char­ter­ing an aero­plane.

The tri­bunal said it had is­sued a vari­a­tion to the Air Char­ter Trans­port Al­lowance to en­able a sit­ting mem­ber to ap­ply for the cost of us­ing their own pri­vate air­craft while un­der­tak­ing par­lia­men­tary busi­ness.

A pi­lot with 35 years of fly­ing un­der his belt, Mr Scott said the change was a “pat on the head for com­mon sense” and would save the tax­payer a “small for­tune”.

Tri­bunal ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Si­mon Kennedy said it was made aware of a cir­cum­stance where it was con­sid­er­ably less ex­pen­sive for a mem­ber to fly their own plane over char­ter­ing flights.

“The tri­bunal con­cluded that it was il­log­i­cal for mem­bers to be re­quired to use char­ter air­craft ser­vices when a less ex­pen­sive op­tion was avail­able,” he said.

The vari­a­tion in rules came after Mr Scott had first writ­ten to the tri­bunal in May last year ask­ing that they con­sider al­low­ing him to claim for par­lia­men­tary travel in his Rock­well In­ter­na­tional 114 aero­plane.

In a let­ter ob­tained by the Kal­go­or­lie Miner dated May 27 last year, the tri­bunal knocked back Mr Scott’s re­quest.

The let­ter said while the tri­bunal had noted his hourly rate was cheaper than com­mer­cial flight op­er­a­tions, they were not pre­pared to make an ex­cep­tion for an in­di­vid­ual mem­ber.

The let­ter did note, how­ever, the tri­bunal would be pre­pared to re­visit the mat­ter at a later date when ev­i­dence of “ac­tual costs” were made avail­able.

Mr Scott, who was elected in March last year and as­sumed his Up­per House seat in May last year, said he had been dis­ap­pointed at the de­ci­sion.

“They ba­si­cally told me it was un­fair be­cause none of the other MLCs have aero­planes so I’ve got an ad­van­tage on them,” he said.

“I ac­tu­ally ac­cepted that be­ing so green and not un­der­stand­ing how the sys­tem works.

“What re­ally did bother me was the fact that I was try­ing to save the tax­payer money and sav­ing them a lot of money and these peo­ple just shrugged me off.”

Mr Scott per­sisted and on

No­vem­ber 27, the tri­bunal ap­proved Mr Scott’s ap­pli­ca­tion un­der the new rules to claim for the cost of fly­ing his plane while on par­lia­men­tary busi­ness at a rate of $350 an hour.

The rate takes into ac­count fuel, main­te­nance costs and other fly­ing costs, and Mr Scott said at that rate, he would still shoul­der a cost of about $30 an hour, which he is happy with,

The air char­ter al­lowance for a Mem­ber of the Min­ing and Pas­toral Re­gion is $35,000.

Mr Scott said fly­ing his own plane was sig­nif­i­cantly cheaper than char­ter­ing a plane and it was re­ally im­por­tant he could ac­cess re­mote com­mu­ni­ties fre­quently.

He said he could fly to War­bur­ton and back at al­most a quar­ter of the cost of char­ter­ing a plane for the same jour­ney.

“It is part of my job and I am go­ing to make sure I visit all of these places,” he said.

“Fly­ing (in his own plane) I can get around all of these places at a frac­tion of the cost.”

Pic­ture: Robin Scott

One Na­tion State Up­per House MP Robin Scott in the cock­pit of his air­craft.

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