Why we pursued the Peter Slipper story

Former Speaker and Sunshine Coast MP Peter Slipper
Former Speaker and Sunshine Coast MP Peter Slipper Warren Lynam

THE Sunshine Coast Daily began closely examining Peter Slipper's expenses in 2010 because the claims were comparatively large.

Mr Slipper was offered the opportunity to explain why his entitlement claims were so excessive, but he would simply intone "parliamentary business", though much of that business was interstate and could involve taxi fares of more than $1000 in a day.

The level of his activity should have labelled him parliament's hardest working member. That, however, was never the assessment of either his party or the electorate that often found him difficult to contact.

Some of the reports the Daily ran aboiut Mr Slippers expenses claims.
Some of the reports the Daily ran aboiut Mr Slippers expenses claims.

Despite the spotlight that was shone on him, the once Honourable Member for Fisher continued to incur expenses well in excess of the norm for a backbencher. That assessment was based not on assumption but careful study of the claims of all parliamentarians in every state, allowance for committee work and meetings and close analysis of the timing of the claims.

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Mr Slipper represented an electorate whose average annual household income was less than his taxi bill.

His frequent flits between the Sunshine Coast and Canberra appeared to be without schedule or serious thought to the impost on taxpayers.

The use of a Commonwealth car or limousine to transport him to Brisbane meant that section of those Canberra flights alone cost $600 a trip.

Some of the reports the Daily ran aboiut Mr Slippers expenses claims.
Some of the reports the Daily ran aboiut Mr Slippers expenses claims.

Flights always went via Sydney while his fellow Queensland MPs flew directly to the national capital.

In Canberra, as here, taxis were used like chauffeured cars ordered then left to wait - meter ticking - while he did whatever he was doing. The hour of their use and their destination frequently gave rise to questions about purpose.

When Treasurer Joe Hockey declared the end of the Age of Entitlement, he was in a sense admonishing the poor and the powerless.

Parliamentarians are neither poor nor powerless. And Mr Slipper is not the only one who, through the manner of the use of public money, has shown a hypocritical contempt for its source.

Topics:  court crime expenses mp peter slipper

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