Nepotism is one of the things Crikey hates the most but when you combine it with large amounts of taxpayer monies then you really start to get get annoyed by families such as the Lightfoots.

Let us for the moment use WA Liberal Senator Ross Lightfoot who has both his wife and daughter on the staff as an example of what is on offer to his family through his position as a member of the federal parliament.

Senator Lightfoot has appointed his wife to the Band B position in his electorate office. Mrs Lightfoot’s base salary is $39,544 rising to $44,087. Each office is able to incur annual overtime up to $30,000 which if divided equally among the staff, adds another $10,000 onto Mrs Lightfoot’s salary.

When Mrs Lightfoot travels with her husband to Canberra as an employee, she is paid a tax free travel allowance of $135 per night or $540 for the sitting week.

Senator Lightfoot receives $145 per night in Canberra which provides the Lightfoot family in total with an additional combined income of $1120 tax free per week. If Senator Lightfoot stays at one of the Canberra motels which give generous discounts to members of parliament, he will be paying $70 per night for both he and his wife, leaving them with $800 a week to spend on meals in the parliament house cafeteria.

If Senator Lightfoot and his wife chose to stop over in either Melbourne or Sydney for a night on their trips between Perth and Canberra and return, they are entitled to an additional tax free travel allowance of $466 for Melbourne and $488 for Sydney.

Mrs Lightfoot is also entitled as a spouse, to an additional twelve business class return airfares from Perth to Canberra, at a further cost to the taxpayers of $24,660. There is also the added cost of a chauffer driven limousine for Mrs Lightfoot to and from the airport at Perth and Canberra.

Many spouses who are on the pay roll do not exercise the full entitlement of this perk because if they travel as a spouse they do not get paid travelling allowance but if they go as an employee they do.

As a Senator for Western Australia, Senator Lightfoot receives an electorate allowance of $27,300 to pay for accommodation and meals while travelling away from Perth within his electorate and while engaged on electorate business. That part of the allowance which is not expended, is taxed and kept by Senator Lightfoot. He is also given an additional tax free payment of $1800 for the first ten nights accommodation.

The less nights a Senator spends in his electorate away from Perth, the more of his allowance goes into his pocket.

If Senator Lightfoot travels with his wife to a part of the electorate and his wife travels with her staff hat on rather than spouse hat on, the Lightfoot estate is bolstered by a further $147 per night tax free for the duration of the visit.

Senator Lightfoot is provided with an expensive four wheel drive Nissan Patrol vehicle which is intended for electorate purposes however he and his wife are both free to use it for personal use. All running costs together with petrol are paid for by the taxpayers.

Senator Lightfoot infrequently spends nights away from Perth exclusively on electorate business and Crikey can find no evidence that he has ever travelled for electorate purposes on a road which requires the use of a four wheel drive vehicle. Senator Lightfoot does however frequently travel in the vehicle to a farming property he owns.

This list is far from an exhaustive audit of the benefits which are available to Senators and members, but it does give an idea of what is in the trough when a spouse is put on the public purse.

It would be interesting to learn of the academic qualifications and relevant skills that in each case makes the spouses, siblings and extended family members such compelling applicants for the positions particularly ahead of the many applicants who apply for these positions when they are advertised.

It would also be interesting to learn of how many family members are selected following the position being advertised and the applicants interviewed.

Peter Fray

Fetch your first 12 weeks for $12

Here at Crikey, we saw a mighty surge in subscribers throughout 2020. Your support has been nothing short of amazing — we couldn’t have got through this year like no other without you, our readers.

If you haven’t joined us yet, fetch your first 12 weeks for $12 and start 2021 with the journalism you need to navigate whatever lies ahead.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW