Friday, September 20, 2013

Tim Mathieson's car use cost Julia Gillard $4000

JULIA Gillard wrote a personal cheque for $4243 to the Department of Finance because her partner, Tim Mathieson, had misused her taxpayer-funded car to drive around Victoria selling shampoo and other haircare products in breach of parliamentary rules. 

Documents released to The Australian under Freedom of Information laws yesterday show that Ms Gillard made the payment on March 9, 2007, as deputy leader of the opposition because of concern over a breach of rules forbidding the use of the car for commercial purposes. The documents were provided yesterday after a 10-month battle by the former prime minister and her office to prevent the Department of Finance from following through on its decision to release the material.

The $4243 repayment by Ms Gillard indicates her office estimated that Mr Mathieson had driven several thousand kilometres while pursuing his commercial interests in the private-plated car, which was wholly funded by the commonwealth.

Controversy over the alleged misuse of taxpayer-funded entitlements has dogged parliamentarians this year. Former Speaker Peter Slipper has pleaded not guilty over the alleged misuse of about $1200 in taxpayer-funded Cabcharge dockets to visit Canberra wineries in 2010.

Mr Slipper, who was investigated by Australian Federal Police, repeatedly claimed that the prosecution was unfair as he was being treated differently from other parliamentarians, including Tony Abbott, who repaid a claim for travel expenses incurred while promoting a book.

In Victoria, the state ombudsman's findings over alleged misuse by independent MP Geoff Shaw of his taxpayer-funded car in the day-to-day running of his hardware company has led to a political crisis and an ongoing police probe. Mr Shaw holds the balance of power.

Victorian Labor legal affairs spokesman Martin Pakula said last week that a closed parliamentary hearing into the alleged misuse by Mr Shaw was wrong as "nobody is going to know how rigorously these matters have been pursued".

"All that we will hear is a verdict from the committee," Mr Pakula said. "Geoff Shaw should get a real grilling from all members of the committee."

The misuse of Ms Gillard's parliamentary entitlement was not known until a whistleblower alerted The Australian late last year to Mr Mathieson's heavy use of the car when he was a PPS Hairwear salesman of hair products shortly after their relationship began.

One of four documents released yesterday is the March 2007 letter written by Ms Gillard's then chief of staff to the entitlements manager of the Department of Finance, and a copy of Ms Gillard's personal cheque.

The letter states: "Following the election of Julia Gillard as deputy leader of the opposition and my subsequent appointment as chief of staff, Ms Gillard asked me to undertake a comprehensive check of her entitlements.

"I am writing to address an issue. In relation to the use of Ms Gillard's private-plated vehicle, I believe there may have been some use of the car outside of the guidelines, particularly in relation to guideline 4.4.7.

"To ensure absolute compliance with the guidelines, please find enclosed a payment of $4243.58 to reimburse the department for the use of the vehicle."

An internal Department of Finance memo states: "The repayment related to Ms Gillard's partner's use of the vehicle. Partner is nominated driver."

Ms Gillard's chief of staff calculated the amount based on the kilometres believed to have been travelled by Mr Mathieson, indicating he accrued more than 6000km before it was brought to the department's attention. Mr Mathieson, a hair dresser, and Ms Gillard began seeing each other in early 2006. Soon after he worked for PPS Hairwear and travelled through regional Victoria. Under the rules he was permitted to use the car - but he could not use it for his own business.

Parliamentary Library records of payments for travel entitlements show the cost to taxpayers of running Ms Gillard's car more than doubled to $9200 in the second half of 2006 compared with $4162 in the same period in 2005. This was the highest increase of Victoria-based parliamentarians.

The Australian asked Bruce Wolpe, a spokesman for Ms Gillard, for a response from the former prime minister and Mr Mathieson to the disclosures. Mr Wolpe replied that there would be "no further comment".

Other documents released previously show the car was in minor accidents, leading to insurance claims for repairs.

A month ago, Information Commissioner John McMillan ruled against Ms Gillard's attempts to block the release of the material under FOI with a decision in which he stated: "The central facts disclosed in the documents are that there may have been an incident of non-compliance with government guidelines on parliamentary entitlements."

Ms Gillard, who has quit politics, did not pursue the option of lodging an appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal within four weeks of the Information Commissioner's decision.

Professor McMillan ruled: "Members of parliament would be aware that their enjoyment of parliamentary entitlements must comply with relevant rules or guidelines, and that this will be independently scrutinised. In that event, it could reasonably be expected that information would be released as to whether the enjoyment of parliamentary entitlements complied with government guidelines, including whether the enjoyment of those entitlements by a family member complied." 17 Sep 2013

Tim Mathieson, another white collar criminal escaping prosecution.

The Anglo-Masonic legal system works to the detriment of everyday Australians.

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