Xenophon calls for review of entitlements loophole

INDEPENDENT Senator Nick Xenophon will urge a high-level review of the federal parliamentary entitlements system to examine politicians' entitlements use during election campaigns.

Sen Xenophon said he would send a submission to the review on Wednesday, citing ARM's investigation of the use of printing and communications entitlements during campaigns.

ARM earlier this week revealed politicians across party lines had spent more than $19 million of taxpayer money on the entitlement during the past two federal election campaigns.

That spending was claimed despite the last independent review of the system recommending the practice be banned - a recommendation no government has acted on.

Sen Xenophon said ARM's reports had confirmed that the entitlements system was "as broken as the famous marble coffee table" - a table broken during a party after former Prime Minister Tony Abbott was ousted last month.

He said he planned to send his submission to the review, led by Remuneration Tribunal president John Conde and former Finance Department secretary David Tune, on Wednesday afternoon - the final day for public submissions.

While the review's terms of reference show it plans to create a more independent monitoring system, there was no specific reference to investigate campaign uses of entitlements.

Sen Xenophon said Australian election campaigns were already an "arms race" and taxpayers were funding the campaigns through the Australian Electoral Commission.

But he said the use of entitlements during campaign periods was a "case of everyone's doing it and people are desperate not to lose that advantage".

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ARM's analysis showed Sen Xenophon's own claims totalled $66,520 from 2009 to December 2014, including $12,832 spent during the 2013 election campaign, but no funds spent during the 2010 campaign period.

Sen Xenophon said a "simple reform" the review needed to consider was capping the amount of entitlements expenditure in "the last three months before an election".

"If there's the political will, we can make changes, but it also stacks the rules against new candidates and new parties," he said.

"It's all about the benefits of incumbency and that in itself challenges our notions of democracy and fair play."



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