Albo's Byron Bay jaunt cost how much?
LATE on Monday night during one of the strangest conversations I've ever had Labor's Anthony Albanese insisted it is wrong to refer to his expenses as claims because they're "entitlements."
I spoke to the shadow transport minister twice that day having sent his media handler two sets of questions about travel claims.
The first set of queries concerned Commonwealth Car claims Mr Albanese made during the Federal Election - on June 28.
It appeared to me at that point Mr Albanese and a number of others had breached a long standing convention of MPs not claiming travel allowances after the Prime Minister has held his campaign launch.
I sent questions to a number of Federal MPs.
Shortly after I sent a query to Mr Albanese's media advisor the man himself rang me back saying: "You've got the wrong end of the stick my friend".
He then gleefully informed me the convention referred to "travel allowances" which meant only claims for accommodation are excluded during the official election period.
He said MPs remained "entitled" to travel expenses such as flights, taxis and car services - right up until polling day.
And when I referred to some of his expenses as claims he interjected saying: "they're not claims, they're entitlements."
I then asked whether the $177.90 in question - which Mr Albanese spent on Commonwealth Car trips to attend a speech by Bill Shorten - represented good value for taxpayers.
"I'm entitled to it so how do you like that?" he said.
Mr Albanese ended the conversation saying because these expenses were a non-story everything he said was off the record.
For the record, if you want to talk to a reporter off the record, you need to say so at the beginning of the conversation and wait until they agree.
Off the record conversations are not there so politicians can give journalists a spray without having and then avoid having them report on their rants.
Later that day I began examining family travel claims made by Federal MPs - again I sent questions to a number of elected officials - one of whom was Mr Albanese.
The query I sent Mr Albanese concerned a two-day trip he took with his wife to Byron Bay during June this year.
He charged the taxpayer a total of $2,917.46 for the trip which included $2,471.96 on flights for he and his wife, $258 for one night of accommodation and $160.90 worth of Commonwealth Car services to and from the airport in Sydney.
I sent the query about 8pm asking for a response by 10am the next day - assuming it could be dealt with during his morning media briefing,
Instead Mr Albanese rang me at five to 10 that night.
I asked whether the only "work" Mr Albanese had done during the trip was to stand next to the Pacific Hwy with a Labor candidate who eventually failed to get elected.
I noted that the release ran nowhere in the media except on page 11 of a local weekly paper and the transcript of the event suggested no journalists were present - although his office contends there were.
Mr Albanese furiously told me: "If you checked my social media page, you'd see I did a number of things" and said his visit got coverage on a local TV news station.
Mr Albanese said he also met with a number of community groups saying there was evidence of this on his social media pages.
I have since checked for these posts but have been unable to find them.
His office refused to produce them with a media handler saying he was not: "a research assistant."
Mr Albanese also said the second day of his trip was spent in the Federal Seat of Richmond with Labor MP Justine Eliot - the only record of that on social media is a Labor Party trivia night fundraiser at the Byron Bay Bowling Club.
This is not to say he didn't do the extra work he claims, only that it was nowhere to be seen on social media.
Mr Albanese's diary may confirm these events but on Monday night he said it wouldn't go back that far.
And when I asked if he thought the Australian people would see good value in his visit Albanese replied: "I'm not the spokesperson on politician's entitlements."
That is where Mr Albanese is so, so wrong.
Politicians should be happy to justify every single time they reach into the public purse for their own travel.
These expenses are not as Mr Albanese refers to them "entitlements" they are claims that need to show an appreciable benefit to the Australian public.
Mr Albanese's views are symptomatic of the way in which career politicians have come to look upon a system of more or less free and unlimited travel on the public purse.
The question is not whether these expenses fall within the remarkably lax guidelines that govern them.
It is whether there is any good reason the Australian tax payer should sponsor them.
Keeping in mind these expenses were claimed just months after the Australian public was outraged by Bronwyn Bishop's Choppergate scandal - one might have thought a more frugal attitude towards taxpayer funded travel would be in order.
My personal view is that during election campaigns the taxpayer should pay for politicians to do actual work - such as meeting with government officials to approve documents and decisions - and political parties should foot the bill for campaign travel.
Mr Albanese ended our chat last night with one final barb: "You're just some poor man's Kerry O'Brien," he said - I'm sure that's intended as an insult but I'll take it as a compliment.