Exposing a “rort” that saves taxpayers money. The media really are going to extraordinary lengths to get Australian politicians implicated in the kind of expense account rorts that are battering the reputation of politicians in the United Kingdom. Yesterday we had Glenn Milne in the News Limited Sunday tabloids saying how terrible it was that the Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing, Jan McLucas, spends far more time in Canberra where she claims a $200 a day living allowance than she spends in her listed home of Cairns. The suggestion is that she is somehow ripping off the public purse but the waste of the taxpayer’s money would actually occur if she flew home every week to Queensland.

For the round trip cost of $2710 — yes that is an outrageous sum but blame Qantas for that ripoff not Senator McLucas — she can spend 13 nights a week in Canberra. She, like any sensible person, can see little point in flying back and forth the thousands of kilometres to north Queensland unnecessarily when you end up spending nearly as much of the weekend in aeoplanes and airports as you do at home base. The surprise to me is that more ministers and parliamentary secretaries do not follow her example, especially those from Western Australia, the Northern Territory and North Queensland. Living primarily in Canberra, as Paul Keating did when he was Treasurer, would make them more efficient ministers and save us all money.

Methinks a staffer spurned. The Milne column attempting to finger Ms McLucas perhaps illustrates the rather catty nature of some of those in the political advisory business. At Crikey recently our attention was drawn to the fact that there was something quite unstable about her employment practices with the suggestion that her entire staff had turned over in 18 months. I let that information go through to the keeper but I wonder if Glenn had the same disgruntled informant?

The gap to be closed. A new and more accurate measure this morning of the disadvantage suffered by Aboriginal people. The Australian Bureau of Statistics has released new estimates of Indigenous life expectancy the quality and robustness of which it describes as being a significant improvement. The new measure shows life expectancy at birth of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (Indigenous) Australians was 67.2 years for men and 72.9 years for women for 2005-2007. The ABS reported that the life expectancy of Indigenous men is 11.5 years lower than for non-Indigenous men, while life expectancy of Indigenous women is 9.7 years lower than for non-Indigenous women.

Some welcome opposition. The prime ministerial spinners could not have arranged it better. Having a pair of trade unions come out and attack the budget plan to gradually increase the eligibility age for the old age pension would be just what Kevin Rudd wanted as he seeks to portray his tough but fair image.

Not so welcome spinning. What was definitely unscripted this morning was the story in The Age that the PM personally intervened to prevent the appointment of the departmentally recommended Hugh Borrowman as Ambassador to Germany. According to the yarn, “insiders blame the decision on a murky personal history shared between the Prime Minister and Mr Borrowman, who have known each other since attending Australian National University. Mr Borrowman is said to have dissented from the often arbitrary decision-making process taken by Mr Rudd since coming to office.”