OPINION: Ethics of ‘Choppergate’

IT ALL came down to ethics, really; something the Abbott government is trying to have phased out of the public school curriculum. Little wonder.

The actions of the prime minister over the past weeks have once again demonstrated his weakness as leader. Mr Abbott's stubborn refusal to advise the former Speaker to step down is another nail in the Coalition coffin. Both Abbott and Chopper Bishop maintain it's the system at fault, not the politicians.

I hosted a dinner party last week, a great way to conduct a quick poll. Of course, one usually entertains friends, which often means the same political outlook is shared. On this occasion, though, I was dining with neighbours (friends, but diametrically opposed at the polling booth) and visiting interstate mates, who vote differently to the rest of us - husband and wife had differing views to each other.

All of us managed to agree, though, that Bishop overstepped her entitlements (not only with the $5000 helicopter ride, but also the "$90,000, well actually it was only $88,000" jaunt to Europe and various wedding shindigs). We also agreed that the expenses rort is not confined to the LNP. What isn't clear is why Peter Slipper was hounded for a $900 gaffe while the roughly half a million hoovered up by Bishop is acceptable to Mr Abbott.

Many years ago I was the acting head of the publishing department at the prestigious Australian Film Television and Radio School, an entity known as a statutory authority. In other words, it wasn't quite public service, but was taxpayer funded and therefore accountable.

The school attracted the cream of the crop in terms of talent; department heads and teachers were household names in their particular field.

Here's the interesting thing, though; staff were only allowed to stay in their jobs for three years at a stretch; after that, they had to leave, return to their industry and work at doing what they did for at least a year before being able to reapply for their job at the school. This ensured that they were all comfortable with the latest technology and, more importantly, remembered what it was like to be at the coalface.

What a great pity it is that "career" politicians don't do the same thing. Ms Bishop's only job in the private sector was as a solicitor and company director back in the 80s. She won her first election in July 1987. How could she possibly remember what it's like to pay for fuel or an airfare?

Here's a simple solution, Mr Abbott. Make it mandatory for all politicians to publish their expenditure, for the entertainment and information of the general public.

Topics:  bronwyn bishop

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