Recommendations to ban using the printing and communications entitlement during campaign periods have been around for five years.
Recommendations to ban using the printing and communications entitlement during campaign periods have been around for five years.

Former PMs among worst offenders of printing spend loophole

TWO former prime ministers were among the top 10 politicians who geared their printing and communications entitlement spending most heavily towards the 2013 election campaign.

ARM on Tuesday revealed Australia's federal politicians had spent more than $19 million on the entitlement to boost their profiles during the past two election campaigns.

Analysis of Finance Department entitlement claims shows former prime ministers Tony Abbott and Kevin Rudd were among those who spent the biggest share of their claims on the entitlement for the last half of 2013 during the election campaign.

Mr Abbott spent $103,166 during the last half of 2013, $100,746 of which - or 97% - was spent during the six-week 2013 election campaign.Mr Rudd spent $125,062 during the six month period, $124,274 or 99% of which, was spent during that year's election campaign.

Spokespeople for both Mr Rudd and Mr Abbott said in statements that their claims were within the entitlement rules, despite five-year old recommendations to ban using the entitlement during campaign periods.

No government has acted on the recommendation since it was made in 2010.

REVEALED: MPs' $19m election campaign loophole

Others among the top 10 included former Petrie MP Yvette D'Ath, now Queensland's Attorney-General; Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss, Assistant Treasurer Kelly O'Dwyer and former Speaker of the House, Peter Slipper.

Ms D'Ath spent $93,279 in the final six months of 2013, $92,800 of which - 99% - was spent during the campaign.

She said her claims were within the rules and a "large part" of the campaign spend was for postal vote applications sent out "a service I believe is extremely important".

But she said a major saving to the entitlements system could be made by shifting postal vote applications to the Australian Electoral Commission.

Mr Truss spent $122,331 in the last half of 2013, $118,718 of which - 97% - was spent during the election campaign.

Ms O'Dwyer spent $126,465 in the final half of 2013, $125,746 of which - 99% - was spent during the 2013 campaign period.

And Mr Slipper spent some $106,454 from July to December 2013 - 100% of which was spent during the campaign.

Mr Truss said his claims were within the entitlement rules.Ms O'Dwyer did not respond to questions.Efforts to contact Mr Slipper were unsuccessful.

On the Labor side, Opposition frontbencher Mark Dreyfus spent $127,617 in the last half of 2013, $125,638 of which - 98% - was spent during the campaign.

His office responded to say in 2010 and 2013, Mr Dreyfus's spending on printing and communications included the significant cost of mailing postal vote application forms to his constituents, making sure those unable to attend on polling day were assisted to vote by post.

Constituents have an expectation that they will hear from their MP during election campaigns.

The Howard Government made a decision in 2001 to allow this, which has been supported by subsequent governments.

Leichhardt Liberal MP Warren Entsch also made the top 10, spending $98,780 in the last half of 2013, $97,379 of which - 98% - was spent during the campaign.

Mr Entsch said his claims were also largely due to mailing costs linked to postal vote applications he sent out during the campaign.

Former Independent MP Rob Oakeshott was also among the top 10 MPs who spent a large share of their claims for the last half of 2013 in the campaign period.

He spent $14,327 during the last half of 2013, $14,088 of which - 98% - was spent during the campaign.

But Mr Oakeshott, who retired at the election, said his costs were likely due to a farewell letter he sent out to constituents, after his lengthy political career in federal and New South Wales politics.

The final MP in the top 10 was former Tasmanian MP Dick Adams, who spent $104,008 in the last half of 2013, $100,573 of which - 96% - was spent during the campaign.Efforts to contact Mr Adams were unsuccessful.


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