The Lightfoot family are certainly making plenty out of the taxpayers as the Liberal Senator has both his wife and daughter on the staff. Senator Lightfoot has appointed his third wife to the Band B position in his electorate office. Mrs Lightfoot’s base salary in 2002 was $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 on to 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 $1,120 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 chauffeur 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 $1,800 for the first ten nights accommodation.
The fewer 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 is not aware 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.
A couple of years back Senator Lightfoot 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, although the taxpayer does save on airfares to Perth.
However, 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 regularly travels to Canberra.
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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 75 sitting days, they draw a further $24,650 free of tax.