ACT News

ACT politicians spend up on printing, signs and Christmas cards

Most ACT politicians managed to use up all but their entire office allowances before an official scheme was scrapped on July 1. 

Members ordered printing, signs and official Christmas cards in the final months of the scheme, as shown in the the latest round of reports on spending prepared by the Legislative Assembly.

Liberals Alistair Coe, Nicole Lawder, Andrew Wall, Brendan Smyth, Steve Doszpot and Vicki Dunne spent nearly their entire $9800 entitlement.  

Labor members Mary Porter and Yvette Berry emerged as the smallest spenders, with more than $5000 remaining at the end of the scheme.

Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson had $443.24 remaining when the allowance was abolished by the ACT Remuneration Tribunal, while his colleague Giulia Jones overspent by $423.55 and had to repay the funds.  

Labor's Mick Gentleman had $472.68 remaining and Chris Bourke had $468.40.

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The reports covering spending between July 2013 and June 30 this year bring to an end the allowances, after the tribunal restructured payments to Assembly members in favour of a new annual communications allowance of $15,000.

The old discretionary system banned funds from being used for election campaigning or party political activities, but allowed money to be transferred between members and up to 25 per cent rolled over into the following year.

Changes to the allowance were first flagged in an issues paper distributed by the Remuneration Tribunal in December 2013.  

Members of the cabinet are not required to submit reports as their spending is managed separately. 

In January and February, Mrs Jones and Mr Doszpot spent a combined $1753 on a total of 1500 Christmas cards.

An opposition spokesman said the cards were for Christmas 2013. 

Mr Doszpot, the assistant speaker and Liberal education spokesman, also reported spending $454.55 for social media services. The spokesman said the work was done by a social media professional and related to websites and online newsletters.

The reports show members from both sides of the Assembly stocked up on printed materials before the July 1 cut off. 

Labor members including Ms Berry, Dr Bourke and Ms Porter spent a combined $10,752 on printing of cards, magnets, flyers and mail outs since January.

In the same period, opposition members spent a combined $11,922 on the flyers, envelopes and magnets.

Mr Hanson, Mr Doszpot, Mrs Dunne, Ms Lawder and Mr Smyth each spent $400 on banner signage.

Cameras and camera equipment were also popular with members in the reporting period. Ms Berry, Dr Bourke, Mr Gentleman and Mr Hanson each spent between $89 and $1500 on the items. 

Mrs Jones bought an iPad tablet and accessories at a cost of $709 in April and Mr Hanson paid $249 for a subscription to stock photo website Shutterstock in May. 

Mr Gentleman joined the ministry in June.

In March, the Canberra Times reported Mr Coe sent 45,000 "calendar cards" to constituents as well as another 2000 21st birthday cards last year.

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