Expense claims ‘above board’

EXPENSES: Member for Riverina Michael McCormack claimed $226,000 in parliamentary entitlements in the first half of 2015, headlined by two ministerial overseas trips to Turkey and Azerbaijan.Member for Riverina Michael McCormack believes the expenses scandals of this year have drawn too much scrutiny to the entitlement claims of politicians.

The latest round of parliamentary expense disclosures were released by the Department of Finance on Thursday afternoon, covering the period from January 1 to June 30 of this year.Mr McCormack claimed just shy of $226,000 of taxpayer funds during that period, with his major expense items being two ministerial overseas trips to Turkey and Azerbaijan in February and May.

Despite claiming nearly a quarter of a million dollars in entitlements for the first half of this year, Mr McCormack said being a politician wasn’t quite as glamorous as the expense account would suggest.He was forced to stay in a caravan park in Cloncurry in October when he travelled to the Queensland town to speak at a major agricultural conference.

“I yearn to be home with my family, who I’ve only seen twice in the last five weeks,” he said.

“I love doing my job, I think it’s the best job ever and I’ll continue to do my very best at it, but I’ll continue to travel because it’s a necessary part of the job.”

Mr McCormack acknowledged some politicians –most notably former speaker Bronwyn Bishop –had misused their expense entitlements, but said for the most part claims were genuine.

“I do think the scrutiny (over entitlements) will weed out those who do the wrong thing, but what you’re entitled to and what the public’s perception of it is, sometimes there’s a gap there,” Mr McCormacksaid.

“Some people think all politicians are on the take …because one or two, maybe three or four politicians maybe do the wrong thing, by what the pub test would say they were doing, every politician gets branded as doing the wrong thing. It’s unfortunate because it gets in the way of good governance.”

His trip to Turkey in February, where he attended the G20 Finance Ministers Meeting, came about as a result of the Liberals leadership spill. Then-treasurer Joe Hockey and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann were required in Canberra for the vote, leaving Mr McCormack to fill in at the last minute.

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