One Nation leader Pauline Hanson claims her current tour around Queensland ahead of the state election is part of her parliamentary duty, as she continues to criticise her federal colleagues for their travel expenses scandals.
For more than a week the Queensland Senator has been touring the state, showing off candidates in Townsville and Buderim for the yet-to-be announced state election, including defecting LNP member Steve Dickson, while at the same time calling for travel entitlements to be reined in.
When questioned by local station WIN News last week, Hanson got defensive, saying she wasn’t touring the state “promoting my party”.
“The state is my electorate,” Hanson said.
In a much more cosy interview with Sky News’ Paul Murray on Monday night, Hanson said everything she was doing in Queensland was to do with federal politics, including discussing the “escalating crime” in Townsville.
“What I’m doing is on official parliamentary duties,” she said.
“I’m getting around and doing my job I’m supposed to do as a senator,” she said.
An upcoming trip to Western Australia, where the party has just been registered, would be paid for by the party, she said.
Hanson said if a trip was entirely for party business in Queensland the party would pay for it, leaving room for joint parliamentary and party business trips to be paid for by the taxpayer.
Hanson said One Nation’s plane was being used instead of paying for commercial flights, and when she did take commercial flights, she bought economy tickets. Hanson also said that she had yet to use her Comcar entitlement, saying she drove herself to the airport parking and took the bus to the airport.
“[Other passengers] get a shock when they see me. I’ve been doing that for the past five months.”
Unfortunately due to the current entitlements reporting period, the details of Hanson’s first few months back in parliament will not be known for several months. On Friday Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull — in announcing Sussan Ley had resigned as health minister following her own expenses scandal — announced that travel entitlements would begin being reported monthly instead of every six months and the data would be available in a machine-readable format instead of the clunky PDF documents for each individual politician available today.
The line between what is official parliamentary business and what can be considered campaigning is one on which MPs have no real guidance. As we reported last week, MPs and senators charged taxpayers more than $2 million in travel during the marathon eight-week election campaign last year, including senior politicians such as Mathias Cormann, Peter Dutton, Michaelia Cash and George Brandis charging taxpayers to attend their own party’s campaign launch.