Crikey has been slow to call for Bronywn Bishop’s resignation from the Speaker’s position because we believe the entire system of travel entitlements for politicians needs to be overhauled.
Getting rid of Bishop won’t change the fact that we have a travel entitlement system that allows for flagrant abuse — and it won’t stop other politicians from arranging fig-leaf official business meetings to coincide with interstate weddings and sporting events, so taxpayers end up paying for their social travel.
As we have written before, the Liberals are certainly not alone in this behaviour — and Labor’s attack on Bishop reeks of hypocrisy when they have made no move to reform a dodgy system from which they also benefit.
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But we believe Bishop’s handling of this scandal has now reached an unacceptable level of disdain for the public she is paid to serve, and she must go.
Although Bishop pledged to pay back the cost of a chartered helicopter flight to Geelong for a Liberal Party fundraiser, she has since come under fire for claiming flights to not one but two colleagues’ interstate weddings.
Bishop claims she was in Albury on official business on the weekend of Sophie Mirabella’s wedding in June 2006 — but she has refused to provide documentation of the meetings, and says she needs to keep the detail top secret to protect the anonymity of the people she met with. She’s facing similar questions over her claiming of travel costs to the wedding of Teresa Gambaro in Brisbane in April 2007, where she says she met with another confidential source.
It’s time for Madame Speaker to cough up and provide the proof that these were indeed business trips — or it’s time for her to step down.