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Political parties stripped of millions in junket cash

Australia's big three political parties have been stripped of millions of dollars of taxpayer money they used to send their officials on overseas junkets.

The Liberals, Labor and the Greens shared out $2.2 million each year from an AusAID-administered fund, which was used to fly business class to catch up with their political sympathisers around the world.

It was even revealed late last year that a senior ALP official was having his wages subsidised from the AusAID's Australian Political Parties for Democracy Program.

But with the scrapping of the overseas aid agency by the Abbott government, part of $450 million worth of cuts to the foreign aid budget, they have been told that the party is over and this year's payments, due in July, will not be handed over.

The program was introduced in 2005 by the then Howard government and expanded in 2011 by his Labor successors to include the Greens.

The last deal, signed by the parties and AusAID in 2012, promised $3 million over three years to the Liberal and Labor Parties and $600,000 to the Greens.

But a DFAT spokeswoman has confirmed that the 2013 payments, of $2.2 million, had not been approved before her department's takeover of AusAID and that no more money would be forthcoming with the deal now scrapped.

“This program has been cancelled by the Abbott Government, as part of the recent reprioritisation of the aid budget,” the spokeswoman said.

She said DFAT was on firm legal ground pulling the pin on the deal less than halfway through their agreed terms.

“The contract between the Government and the three political parties allows for the termination of the agreement.”

The program has had a mixed recent history with media revelations of high-profile political figures being flown on taxpayers' money to international talk-fests with like-minded groups around the world.

In November 2013, it was revealed that ALP assistant national secretary Nick Martin, had a large portion of his salary paid from the AusAID grant.

Former prime minister John Howard, his party's federal director Brian Loughnane, Liberal international secretary Bruce Edwards, and former president Shane Stone used program money to fly to London in 2011 for a meeting of the conservative International Democrat Union, at a cost to the taxpayer of $70,000.

Three young Liberals spent more than $50,000 jetting to Columbia the same year for a get-together with the International Young Democrat Union Freedom Forum.

Labor figures, including former national secretaries Karl Bitar and Tim Gartrell, NSW state MP Luke Foley, and former senator Michael Forshaw have also enjoyed trips courtesy of the AusAID money.

In 2010 the Labor party spent $196,000 on journeys to Europe, New Zealand, Canada and the US for 24 of its members, and some return trips to Australia, to develop fraternal party relationships.

Under the funding agreement, at least 50 per cent of the money was required to be used by the political parties to promote democracy in developing countries.

The rest could be used for international activities in developed countries, an arrangement that led to criticism and claims parties could spend the money on whatever they liked.

29 comments

  • And why not, these days all about me me me, bloody parasites on the public purse.

    Commenter
    NITRO GANGSTER
    Date and time
    February 14, 2014, 12:03PM
    • I've been waiting 5 months for an action by Abbott that I can give the thumbs up to.
      Well done. Hacka should be proud.

      Commenter
      Bg2
      Date and time
      February 14, 2014, 6:01PM
  • How many ways have our pollies got of getting their snouts into the cookie jar? Pay your own way parasites.

    Commenter
    Michael M
    Date and time
    February 14, 2014, 12:28PM
    • They'll find another way, "Don't you worry about that".

      Commenter
      A country gal
      Date and time
      February 14, 2014, 4:48PM
  • ha ha he........

    Commenter
    the laughing gnome
    Date and time
    February 14, 2014, 12:53PM
    • And here I was thinking AusAID was an organisation providing aid to developing nations In order to reduce poverty. How wrong I was. How exactly does providing pollies (of any party) with funds to attend political functions overseas have anything to do with poverty reduction? Is there any level that our politicians won't stoop to? Taking money from an aid agency. Really??? If they were visiting refugee camps, I might see the logic, but otherwise, sorry!!!!

      Commenter
      Bronwyn
      Date and time
      February 14, 2014, 1:07PM
      • I absolutely agree. Except that I am not sure that visits to refugee camps contribute much to political knowledge or action. It's like the PM tripping out to areas badly affected by drought - an unnecessary expense to the taxpayers.

        Commenter
        MJM
        Date and time
        February 14, 2014, 2:33PM
    • "The age of entitlement is over" - Sure!!! Let's see how quickly they manage to tap into another slush fund, paid for by us, of course....

      Commenter
      Cobbcres
      Location
      ACT
      Date and time
      February 14, 2014, 1:18PM
      • Will this include charity events and libraries?

        Commenter
        Jimmy
        Location
        Buderim
        Date and time
        February 14, 2014, 1:37PM
        • Somehow I doubt it jimmy.
          All gone very quiet the rorting issues, deflection, deflection.

          Commenter
          A country gal
          Date and time
          February 14, 2014, 5:09PM

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