Local NSW Nationals MP and Byron Bay resident Don Page has been named as one of a number of ministers who incorrectly claimed work-related expenses for the first half of this year.
His name joins a growing list of state and federal MPs who have been exposed as incorrectly claiming expense entitlements.
Most importantly, the information only became public after a document was obtained under the government Information Public Access Act, which, according to the ABC, shows that in the first half of this year ‘five [state] government ministers and the staffer of a sixth reimbursed the Department of Premier and Cabinet for private expenses that were incorrectly booked’.
When asked by The Echo about the accuracy of the ABC report, Mr Page replied that it was correct that $442 was incorrectly claimed as a public expense for an aeroplane flight. He told Echonetdaily, ‘My staff incorrectly booked a flight for my wife on my ministerial account. A routine check of ministerial expenses by my office identified the mistake and I reimbursed the ministerial account.’
However, Mr Page dodged questions as to how to address the issue of misappropriating public funds by elected officials such as himself. Asked repeatedly if an increase in politicians’ pay and a cutting of all expense entitlements would address the issue, Mr Page said, ‘The independent Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal determines MPs’ wages and allowances. If you want answers, regarding trade-offs etc, I suggest you contact them for an insight into the complexities involved.’
Deputy premier Andrew Stoner was also named, and made three repayments after being reimbursed for drinks and items from the mini bar. One bill was for $252.
According to www.parliament.nsw.gov.au, NSW ministers of the Crown receive a base salary of $146,251 (for premier, deputy premier, senior and other ministers); however, they also receive additional salaries, including $97,988 for senior MPs and $83,363 for other MPs. There is also an expense allowance of $38,025 for senior and other MPs.