It seems the repeated racial insults of West Australian Senator Lightfoot were just the tip of the iceberg, according to Crikey’s man in Canberra. The tyranny of distance combined with a bit of ‘creative accounting’, has enabled Senator Lightfoot to pay off the mortgage on his Canberra flat with taxpayers money.
Just when we thought we had heard the last of Senator Ross Lightfoot, one of Crikey’s ten worst members of parliament, he has disgraced himself by being found by a Federal Court Judge, to have made racist comments. Costs of $10,000 were awarded against him. Lightfoot did not defend the charge at the hearing.

“If you want to pick out some aspects of Aboriginal culture, which are valid in the 21st century, that aren’t abhorrent, that don’t have some of the terrible sexual and killing practices in them, I’d be happy to listen to those” Lightfoot told the media at the time.

Perhaps the Editorial in the “West Australian”, best sums the man up.

“His contribution to State politics might be summed up as dismal self-promotion and his career at Federal level has been no more edifying. He has found notoriety by an ugly recourse to race-based remarks about Aboriginals in what he calls their native state.

In his native state, Senator Lightfoot is a political nonentity who would probably have been unnoticed by West Australians generally had it not been for his repeated insults based on race. He has exchanged obscurity for a bit of ill-gained notoriety.

On his arrival in the Senate, he embarrassed not only many fellow West Australians but also Prime Minister Howard, who threatened to throw him out of the coalition. Mr Howard was right to identify him as a potential political liability.

Apparently not having the courage of his convictions, Senator Lightfoot neither defended his outrageous claims nor attended the court. Senator Lightfoot’s office informed the media that Lightfoot was “in transit.”

What was not disclosed was that Senator Lightfoot and Mrs Lightfoot number three, government petrol card in hand, were taking a leisurely drive to Canberra in Lightfoot’s taxpayer funded four-wheel drive vehicle. Lightfoot is also able to claim meals and accommodation expenses for the journey.

Why was Senator Lightfoot spending days driving from Perth to Canberra and during a non-sitting-week no less, when he could have flown in a matter of hours? Senator Lightfoot has recently bought himself a flat in Canberra. Rather than putting part of the nightly Canberra allowance of $145 towards a motel bill, he now puts it all towards a mortgage.

Given the extra flying time involved for Western Australian members and Senators, they have considerably more flexibility in the time they spend in Canberra. The more nights Senator Lightfoot stays in Canberra, the more allowance he receives.

However, as Crikey readers know, Senator Lightfoot employs his wife as an electorate officer. This nice little arrangement means that when Lightfoot and his wife stay in Canberra between sitting weeks rather than returning to the electorate and electorate duties, they receive an additional $580 tax-free each weekend. Since buying the flat, Mrs Lightfoot has become the only member of her husband’s staff who travels to Canberra.

It is however most inconvenient not having a motor vehicle with which to enjoy the weekends. Senator Lightfoot has overcome that problem for the time being by taking his electorate vehicle to Canberra.

Senator Lightfoot and his wife draw combined salaries and allowances of $182,300 from the public purse in addition to Mrs Lightfoot’s overtime salary and the numerous additional benefits and entitlements. If the Lightfoots spend just five weekends in Canberra in addition to the seventy-five sitting days, they draw a further $24,650 free of tax.

PS. For reasons that have never been publicly explained, Senator Lightfoot was placed below the National Party on the Liberal member for Curtin’s how to vote cards at the last federal election. The member, Ms Julie Bishop was Senator Lightfoot’s partner between Mrs Lightfoot number two and Mrs Lightfoot number three. The National Party placed Lightfoot below other Liberal candidates on their how to vote cards because of his political views.

Peter Fray

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