JOE Hockey has defended his practice of claiming a $270-a-night taxpayer-funded travelling allowance to stay in a Canberra house majority-owned by his wife on the grounds that it is an entirely legitimate practice embraced by scores of Labor MPs.
The Treasurer has endured a storm of controversy over his comments that poor people did not drive their cars very far this week. On Friday, he issued a grovelling apology for his choice of words.
The Hockey family’s astute purchase of the property in one of Canberra’s premier suburbs is a well-known story in political circles. The home is worth an estimated $1.5 million according to local real estate agents.
But the Hockey clan picked up the property for a song, purchasing it for just $320,000 in 1997.
In his recently published biography Not Your Average Joe, a former Liberal MP Ross Cameron boasts that Mr Hockey struck a golden deal, spotting the house when driving in Canberra.
“The house was a piece of Hockey mercantile genius,’’ Mr Cameron said.
Biographer Madonna King writes that the seller, who according to ACT lands title records was called Robert Hamilton wanted “no part in lawyers or agents.’
“So Joe, the lawyer, called his father, the real estate agent, who took the owner out for a beer,’’ Ms King writes.
“The Hockey’s scored the house for land value. Joe’s father didn’t mention he was a real estate agent, buying the property on behalf of his lawyer son.’’
A group of Liberal MPs including Mr Cameron, Bob Baldwin and Defence Minister Brendan Nelson then moved and paid rent to stay at the property. Dr Nelson famously lived in the shed after his marriage broke up in return for paying half rent. Now employed by the Australian War Memorial Dr Nelson sometimes still stays at the property.
The double dipping of MPs who claim travel allowance to stay in properties owned by themselves or their wives and in some cases reduce their tax by negatively gearing property is well-known in Canberra. In 2007, it was revealed Malcolm Turnbull, then regarded as Australia’s richest MP, rented a house from his wife Lucy when in Canberra. It was reported Mr Turnbull paid $10,000 a year to his wife under the arrangement and claimed another $10 a night when she stayed in Canberra. In response, Mr Turnbull said the story was a “beat up.”
“You get the same amount and where you stay is of no concern to the government. That’s the way the system works.”
In Canberra, MPs are not required to show a receipt to prove they stayed in a hotel because the blanket $270 rate applies whether you stay in a hotel or a house owned by yourself or another person.
Because of the rules, many MPs purchase property in Canberra to provide a base during parliamentary sittings and use their travel allowance to pay off their mortgage.
After the Sunday Telegraph inquired about Mr Hockey’s house it was pointed out by the government that more than a dozen Labor MPs own property in Canberra where they stay during parliamentary sitting weeks and also claim travel allowance.
These MPs include Anthony Albanese, Warren Snowden, Tanya Plibersek has an apartment in
Joel Fitzgibbon, Jim Chalmers, Mark Butler, Tony Burke and Doug Cameron.
Mark Butler has an apartment in Kingston.
Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd also owned property in Canberra before they retired from politics.
dailytelegraph.com.au 17 Aug 2014
More Australian political SCUM.
Degrading the 'poor people' (who would be on government benefits?) simultaneously while he himself on government benefits.
These are the people that are in charge of Australia?
He should be removed from 'government' immediately!