MP wants expenses reviewed

Lisa Chesters. Picture: Bendigo Advertiser

Bendigo Labor MP Lisa Chesters has called for a full review of federal politicians’ work expenses in the wake of the latest entitlement scandals.

Ms Chesters, who slammed former speaker Bronwyn Bishop’s use of taxpayer funds to pay for a helicopter trip to a Liberal Party function, said most MPs were mindful of monies spent on official duties, but there was still room to ensure the standard was clear. ‘‘We need to be accountable to those who have elected us.’’

Department of Finance figures reveal Ms Chesters spent $244,536 on office fit-outs between July 1 and December 31 last year.

A total of $67,887 was paid for office administration, $15,183 for domestic airfares, $6792 for car expenses and almost $4000 for telecommunications.

McEwen MP Rob Mitchell spent $20,966 on office fit-outs, $54,339 on office administration, $12,479 on domestic airfares, $13,840 on car costs and $3959 on telecommunications.

Ms Chesters said many people didn’t realise that MPs spent 20 weeks a year in Canberra.

‘‘There’s a cost associated with that, but it’s a matter of being sensible and honest about what is a reasonable use of expenses.’’

She said works to her Bendigo electorate office were overdue, with the last renovations more than 15 years ago. ‘‘As the elected representative, it’s important that everyone can access my office, and that meant re-doing the layout to improve disabled access,’’ Ms Chesters said. ‘‘We’re a very busy office, so having a modern working environment is important for staff and the many interns and supporters who volunteer their time.’’

Mr Mitchell, like Ms Chesters, said he was extremely careful with taxpayers’ money.

‘‘It’s a unique job and there are things that you spend money on that you wouldn’t in other roles,’’ he said. ‘‘You can put the wrong clause number down for your flight, and it ends up you claimed this and you’re not entitled to it … so you pay it back. But what we’ve seen with what Bishop did, that’s extreme.

“The vast majority of MPs do the right thing.’’

Mr Mitchell said his office fit-out costs arose after a move from temporary digs at Wallan to a more central Craigieburn location.