PM dismisses Labor pledge for changes to politicians' travel allowance

PM rejects Labor pledge for changes to politicians' travel entitlements

SBS World News Radio: The Prime Minister has rejected the opposition's push for changes to travel entitlements given to federal politicians who own homes in Canberra.

The Prime Minister has rejected the opposition's push for changes to travel entitlements available to federal politicians who own homes in Canberra.

Labor says Senators and MPs who are able to claim tax deductions on property in Canberra should not be entitled to a nightly travel allowance, paid to them even if they stay in their own home.

Labor is promising to crack down on the practice if it wins government in July.

Federal senators and MPs are currently able to claim a tax deduction on costs associated with a property owned by them in Canberra, while receiving a $273 nightly travel allowance every time they stay in the capital overnight in their own home.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten says the practice is not in line with community expectations.

On his first campaign visit to Western Australia, Mr Shorten rejected the idea that Labor's pledge to consider changes to politicians' entitlements is populistic.

"What I have asked Chris Bowen and my Treasury team to do is to look at how we close down this ruling. I don't think it's fair and I make it very clear to Australians that where I don't think something is fair, I will act on it."

On the opposite side of the country, on the New South Wales south coast, Malcolm Turnbull defended his use of the travel allowance.

"The way in which the allowance works in Canberra is that members and senators are paid an amount per night they stay in Canberra regardless of what accommodation they have. They may stay in their own apartment. They may stay in a hotel.That's the way the rule has operated for a very long time and I have conducted my affairs scrupulously in accordance with the rules that apply to all members and senators."

He says politicians have no role in determining the rules for their own allowances.

"The Remuneration Tribunal reviews these allowances regularly and I'm sure they will do so in the future. I can assure you that it is very important that the allowances and pay for that matter of politicians is handled independently and not set by politicians."

Campaigning in the Liberal-held bellwether seat of Eden-Monaro, Mr Turnbull announced $11 million to boost tourism.

The money would help fund the expansion of the Port of Eden, and an upgrade of Merimbula Airport.

NSW Premier Mike Baird welcomed the announcement, saying it would result in more interstate and international tourists.

"And the port infrastructure is very significant. NSW just went past Canada in becoming the largest cruise ship market in the world. As that cruise ship market brings opportunities, we know those passengers, if they land, bring significant economic benefits to local communities."

Also focusing on infrastructure, Mr Shorten says a Labor government would put one billion dollars into Perth's MetroNet rail project, diverting funds from the Freight Link road project.

"And we need to see real jobs, real jobs created to help the community transition from the peak of the mining boom to a post-mining boom State economy. Only Labor has a plan to put the public transport needs of Perth first. We will do this by a grant funding of $1 billion and this will enhance the live ability of Perth. Nearly 4,000 jobs will be created."

Debate over health policy continued to spill into the third week of the campaign, after federal Health Minister Sussan Ley said she would like to lift the controversial Medicare rebate freeze.

It's one of the promises being made by Labor, should it form government.

Ms Ley says the push to end the freeze on the government rebates paid to doctors was blocked by the Finance and Treasury departments.

Mr Turnbull, meanwhile, says the freeze will remain until 2020 - and he's accused Labor of running a scare campaign.

"It will end when we judge it is affordable within the context of the health budget. That is all Sussan is saying. It's common sense. But the really important issue is this: Are Australians receiving the best healthcare affordably? The answer is, in terms of affordability, bulk billing has never been higher. Mr Shorten is not telling the truth about Medicare. He is trying to frighten people as he goes around the country, putting more and more billions on his spend-o-meter because he doesn't care how much he spends."

Opposition health spokeswoman Catherine King says the Health Minister's comments are revealing.

"The Health Minister today, her position is entirely untenable. How can you have the Health Minister of the nation somehow conceding she has no control whatsoever about what happens in Cabinet to health policy? She has basically admitted that health policy under the Turnbull Government is all about cuts and about finding savings. It has got nothing to do with the health of this nation."

Going into week three of the eight-week campaign, Labor is holding a slight edge on the two-party preferred vote with a 51-49 per cent lead over the government.

The latest Newspoll shows Malcolm Turnbull remains the preferred prime minister, but his lead has halved since late last year, while Bill Shorten's approval rating is at a 12-month high.

The survey was of 1,700 voters was taken from Thursday to Sunday - and has a three-point margin of error.



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