EDITORIAL: Nation the loser in misused taxpayers' money

I'LL never understand how "innocent" politicians can put themselves in the position where they are guilty of misusing taxpayer entitlements.

I find it bizarre that people who are voted into office by the public to represent them would make such a mistake or, at worse, deliberately claim expenses they are not entitled to.

Another recurrent offence for politicians is the non-declaration of gifts or donations from powerful individuals, companies and organisations.

Politicians are for the most part intelligent, hard-working people of excellent character who genuinely want to do the best for their communities and the nation.

It is a shame and even tragic when a career is tarnished or ruined over amounts of money that, in the scheme of things, are miniscule compared to what they earn and achieve for their constituents.

Regarding the Bronwyn Bishop saga, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said there was a problem with the system when spending was "arguably inside the rules but plainly outside community expectations".

He is absolutely right to review the MP entitlements scheme to prevent further career-damaging mistakes.

While the Labor Party will be delighted to have claimed a scalp as large as Ms Bishop, the nation is the loser in the time and taxpayer money spent over this issue and the loss of someone as experienced as her to the back bench.

I wonder how many politicians are now feeling nervous about a full audit of travel expenses.

Can I suggest that in the meantime, they get advice on any claims that may be questionable or just err on the side of caution?

That might save a lot of time, embarrassment and even a career.