Ministers’ dodgy claims to remain secret

 

THE Palaszczuk Government has refused to reveal which ministers have had to pay back expenses wrongly claimed on the taxpayer dime.

The Courier-Mail's Right to Information request for details of dodgy claims was knocked back after RTI officers decided it would take them too long to find the information and that it likely wouldn't be interesting anyway.

That's despite processing previous RTIs that found ministers had incorrectly charged taxpayers for family trips and had wrongly bought personal items on their ministerial credit cards.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk. Picture: AAP Image/Jono Searle
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk. Picture: AAP Image/Jono Searle

The RTI officer found the latest RTI would be an "unreasonable diversion of the department's resources" and said it could only proceed if the 24-month block was whittled down to no more than two months.

That's despite two previous RTIs - one for a 12-month period - being accepted in 2017 and 2016.

In a notice of her intention to refuse the request, the RTI officer told The Courier-Mail those previous RTIs hadn't found "information of any real significance".

"Without having viewed the actual documents relevant to your current application, my expectation is that there may be few documents relevant to your application which may be of significant interest to you," she added.

The Courier-Mail did try to lessen the time period to six month but was told that was also too long.

Deputy Premier Jackie Trad and Minister for Mines and Energy Anthony Lynham have been forced to pay back wrongly-made expenses in the past.
Deputy Premier Jackie Trad and Minister for Mines and Energy Anthony Lynham have been forced to pay back wrongly-made expenses in the past.

It was told the RTI could only be processed if it was split into 12 RTI requests for two-month periods each for the 24-month time frame requested, which would cost an additional $560 in application fees, in addition to final costs.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Premier and Cabinet said the work would have required a review of more than 63,000 records, taking an unreasonable 300 hours of work.

But Opposition Deputy Leader Tim Mander criticised the decision, saying the public had a right to know when ministers had crossed the line.

"(Premier) Annastacia Palaszczuk promised open and transparent government, but she has only delivered secrecy and spin," he said.

An RTI in late 2017 revealed Mines Minister Anthony Lynham paid back $658 after wrongly claiming hotel expenses for his adult son who tagged along on a ministerial travel trip and Deputy Premier Jackie Trad paid back $240 after she incorrectly claimed meals during a Governing from the Gold Coast event.

Agriculture Minister Mark Furner was one minister caught out trying to claim chocolate in a previous RTI request. Picture: Matt Taylor
Agriculture Minister Mark Furner was one minister caught out trying to claim chocolate in a previous RTI request. Picture: Matt Taylor

It also detailed how Agriculture Minister Mark Furner had a $92 fuel claim knocked back when two Kinder Surprise chocolate eggs were discovered on the receipt.

Another RTI, in late 2016, uncovered how former agriculture minister Leanne Donaldson paid back $191 for 8 traditional Indonesian wood puppets bought on a ministerial credit card during a trade trip.

And former treasurer Curtis Pitt reimbursed taxpayers after they paid for his son to fly between Cairns and Townsville for an NRL semi-final between the Cowboys and Broncos.