After a cap was removed on a controversial public subsidy of the major political parties, 72 Coalition MPs claimed an additional $48,935 in the first half of 2015-16 over and above what could be claimed in previous years.
This was paid to the Liberal owned entity, Parakeelia Pty Ltd, the subject of recent controversy over its practice of funding the Liberal Party by way of public subsidy for electoral management software it developed and owns.
Members expenditure claims for the first half of 2015-16, released yesterday, reveal that 72 Coalition MPs and Senators made claims for the software reimbursement allowance, which, for major party MPs, can only be paid to software providers nominated by the parties.
The total value of the claims was $156, 935, with all but six Coalition MPs claiming at least $1900, which was paid to Parakeelia. Under the rules operating prior to 2015-16, the total amount claimed by the 72 MPs could not have exceeded $108,000.
Among Coalition Members and Senators,
- one MHR claimed $2466.58,
- 15 MHRs claimed $2341.36,
- 37 MHRs claimed $2318.18,
- one Senator claimed $2249.55,
- five Senators claimed $2227.27,
- two Senators claimed $1928.18,
- five Senators claimed $1909.09
- one MHR claimed $1515, and
- four MHRs and one Senator claimed the original capped amount of $1500.
Forty one ALP MHRs and Senators made claims for software reimbursement at the previous capped level of $1500, resulting in $61,500 claimed for use of the Electrac software, operated by a third party (but Labor associated) company, Magenta Linas.
Until 1 July 2015, the software reimbursement allowance was capped at $1500. As part of the 2015-16 Budget, then Special Minister of State, Michael Ronaldson, announced changes to office entitlements, so as to “simplify, provide greater flexibility, and give greater clarity and certainty to Senators and Members entitlements”.
Among the changes was a consolidation of five discreet entitlements (Publications; Office requisites and stationery; Flags; Printing and communications; and Software) into one “office budget”; effectively a global budget encompassing the previously distinct (and sometimes capped) office entitlements.
This meant that MPs are now free to spend as much (or as little) on any particular approved item within a global office budget (other than a $50,000 limit on “office requisites and stationery”.)
In 1996, an entitlement of up to $1000 was introduced for “software reimbursement”. In February 2004, by way of a Ministerial Circular from then Special Minister of State Eric Abetz, the allowance was raised to a maximum of $1500 to take account of “cost increases and technological advances”.