Rebuilding voter trust after 'entitlements' saga

BBishop.jpgWe have all heard the saying “A week is a long time in politics” and that makes the several weeks since I last wrote seem like an eternity.

I had a couple of weeks’ break with my family whilst trying to ignore the news and clear the mind. It worked!

But upon re-entry into the political world, one couldn't help but become immersed in the ‘entitlements’ (what a dreadful word) row and the matters pertaining to the former Speaker.

Bronwyn Bishop is a friend and I very much regret the events of the past few weeks. There is no question that the helicopter ride was inappropriate and didn't pass the common sense test. She has done the right thing by resigning but these events have cast a further shadow over all parliamentarians.

Regular readers will know that I have been like a broken record over the need to rebuild the trust between the electorate and the political class. The sense of disillusionment with elected representatives as a whole is palpable. Last year I offered a formula to rebuild that trust in an address to the National Press Club. You may like to read a transcript of my speech here. I believe it offers a way forward that the government would be wise to consider.

In my address, I dealt with the need to reform the system of parliamentary expenses to ensure absolute transparency and accountability to the public. It is my strong view that the bright light of openness and public opinion is the best disinfectant for any untoward practices.

Of course it won’t stop mistakes being made or some people doing the wrong thing, but it will force parliamentarians to seriously consider every item of expenditure incurred using taxpayers’ money. That is the very least we can do.

Thank you to the many hundreds of readers who contacted me in response to my debate at the Press Club last week. The feedback was fantastic and I am grateful that so many of you took the time to share your thoughts. You can read a transcript of the debate here.

On another very parochial note, I was delighted to hear the government’s decision to bring forward the construction of the new frigates in South Australia. In my maiden speech to the parliament I spoke of how important the defence industry was to South Australia’s future and this decision goes a long way to ensuring it will make a positive contribution to my state for decades to come.