Is @TonyAbbottMHR really ‘volunteering’?


By Margo Kingston

15 July 2013

For as long as I’ve been on Twitter tweeps have questioned the correctness of Mr Abbott’s claiming travel allowance from taxpayers for his ‘volunteer’ activities.

Just yesterday @phonytonyabbott posted a piece detailing his expenses for surfing, fun runs and cycling.

I am advised that Mr Abbott can claim these activities as official business as the Leader of the Opposition. This is because for travel allowance, official business for office holders is very broad. Effectively he just has to do something for a community group and it can be argued that he is performing official business as LOTO.

Even if someone raised it with the Finance Department, it would probably just seek an assurance from Mr Abbott’s office that he was responding to a community group’s request or invitation etc to attend (which they would no doubt give Finance).

The issue here is therefore not wrongly claiming travel allowance, but whether Mr Abbott, or the media which cover these events claims that these activities are volunteering or for charity. They are not. In fact, Mr Abbott is doing his job and being paid handsomely for it.

If you can find examples of false reporting or false ‘volunteer’ claims, please put them in the comments section.

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  1. g2-5bba245eb6db01d36e28de6648a6336a says

    I am curious about Mr Abbott’s period spent as a firefighting volunteer earlier this year.

    I have heard rumors that he spent 3 days with his crew on firefighting duties, I have also heard rumors from credible sources that he returned home to Sydney on the first night of the fires to continue his holiday with his family as soon as the media coverage had left.

    As there is no conclusive evidence either way I am left to wonder, Abbott has made no clear statement of how long he was on duty, after the first media flurry there were no further reports of what he was doing.

    I am also curious if he claimed any allowances for this period ( I have lodged an FOI request with dept of finance )

    And if indeed Mr Abbott was qualified to be on a fire ground as I understand the NSW RFS requires volunteers to attend a minimum of 5 training nights per year before being allowed to be on a fireground.

    I have requested workplace health and safety NSW investigate this but as soon as I mentioned it was with regards Mr Abbott there was no further communications from them. ….. odd that !

    I would like to volunteer to go swimming on the Barrier Reef sometime

    if I can organize a charity event up there will Mr Abbott pay for my fare ???

    • Oh, give it a rest for god’s sake! Do you know how stupid you sound? How many days firefighting did you do? How much is the ALP paying you to do all this campaigning? If they aren’t, you should ask them for something. Or maybe this is you volunteering – good cause mate. You bunch of twits.

      • Riley, the point is – Abbott is claiming expenses for private activities and gets away with it. Slipper does it and is charged!

      • Geez, a nice attempt at sanctimony and intellectual ridicule, Riley. But no. Do you always resort to name-calling when someone dares to ‘volunteer’ something that is not aligned to your own beliefs? Or do you simply struggle with the notion of a democracy? (By the way, I am in the RFS, so don’t even bother trying that line on me either.)

      • Steven Curren says

        The last time I volunteered with the SES, Kim wasn’t paid travel allowances by my employer. Any else getting paid allowances over and above their ay whilst volunteering?

      • the only “stupid” sounding person here is you Riley. A true blue Abbott Sycophant. Know that word?

    • For last year alone, Abbotts expenses claims for his pollie pedal were on average $500 a day and has been claiming every year since 2010.

  2. J.Fraser says

    Nice one.

    “volunteering for charity” …. just what every “Slick” Abbott cheer squad member keeps asking me when they want to know why I call Abbott “Slick”.

    And then he picks up taxpayers money for his own pocket … sliiiiiick !

    A carpetbagger of the first order.

  3. When parliamentarians do eg the Kokoda trail, do they take leave to do that and do they claim expenses to get there?

    When Abbott goes to a remote community for a week or two, surely he would do that while on leave. In which case, how does he justify spending $9,600 of taxpayer dollars to charter a plane to get there. (see @phonytonyabbott’s article linked to above). And if he does it on work time, rather than on leave, how can he call it volunteer work? And should a parliamentarian be doing that kind of thing (however admirable) while he is being paid big dollars to eg represent his electorate etc?

    I think these are valid questions for Abbott to answer, as they are taxpayer $$$ he is using. If legitimate expenses, maybe time to change/clarify/tighten the rules.

  4. Joy Cooper says

    Is this why Tony Abbott seems to hold a press conference while still wearing cycling, running or swimming gear, whenever he is competing at one of these events?

    So Abbott gets to criticise the Federal government’s initiatives at that time, indulge in his endorphins buzz, make out like he is a super hero, all while having his expenses paid for by the taxpayer. Sounds pretty suss to me, especially as he is already really well remunerated by the taxpayer. ,

  5. SpudBenBean says

    Would it included ‘Pollie Pedal’ as that was something he started in 1998, so it wouldn’t be at the invitation of a community group, as such?

  6. I have found what I believe to be a prima facie case of excessive and wasteful use of expenditure.
    Please see page 10 of 47.

    Please note the amount for “charter” on the dates 5 Mar 2012 and 6 Mar 2012 totals $23, 560:

    5 Mar 12 – Sydney to Bendigo
    5 Mar 12 – Bendigo to Horsham
    6 Mar 12 – Horsham to Adelaide

    Please note that Abbott’s “business” in Bendigo consisted of speaking at an RSL Club.

    Please note that Abbot’s “business” in Horsham consisted of opening a machinery field day.

    Do such activities fall under the category of official business for the LOTO?

    Even if so, the billing of over $23,000 to the taxpayers for this nonsense just seems both wasteful and excessive to me.

  7. I find this seriously offensive… At least before when we assumed he was just getting a perk for doing something he enjoyed like the cycling etc., that was your standard, “Well what do you expect he is a pollie” type attitude. BUT this man has been lauded so often by every major news outlet for his ‘charity & volunteer’ work. If you are doing this ‘volunteering’ at absolutely no cost to yourself, on the tax payer dollar as part of your job, that is NOT Volunteering!

    I don’t care if he carries on doing this stuff, that is his gig, if he can get away with it, fine, BUT, I do not want to see anymore News items about how he is a bloody saint for doing it! I come from a family with a volunteering ethic, getting paid your daily wage, getting paid travel allowances, plus all the bloody PR for it, just plain offensive and a kick in the guts to every true Volunteer around. You know the real Volunteers who are stoked when you give them the spare petrol dockets as they can then claim a few cents on the all the fuel they have spent running around for the charity.

    The next media outlet that praises Tony for all his charity work – (UNLESS he has taken time off work without pay, or is on his holidays & not getting expenses for it) – when he is being a paid a wage for it, I want boycotted. Let’s at least have a bit of truth in media, if not, they may as well stop calling themselves journalists & call themselves ‘publicists’.

    • J.Fraser says

      Don’t mention “Slick” Abbott charging taxpayers for his “charity work” in the “Comments” section of any newspaper.

      The President “Slick” Abbott cheer squad come out , and with absolutely no knowledge of his claims or how much they are, proceed to defend him, and point out that he is the one doing so much “charity work” out of all the politicians.

      It really stinks … that he is allowed to get away with it.

  8. Abbott is only in training-mode for claims. If he becomes the next prime minister – gawd help us – he will attempt to beat Howard. This is what Alan Ramsey said of Howard in 2003:

    “John Howard, too, was busy overseas last year, you’ll remember.Very busy. And, like Trudy Clark and Heather Ruddock,
    Janette Howard went along as well, also at public cost. You’ll likely be a bit stunned to learn what that cost was. That is,
    the cost during the calendar year 2002 of the overseas travels of the Prime Minister, wife and entourage. Total:
    $3,551,035. Yes, I blinked, too. For this the Howards went to the United States twice last year – for 10 days in January-
    February ($1.15 million) that included Singapore and Indonesia, and a week in June ($467,480). They also went to Britain
    twice, in March and April (total cost: $323,730), which included the Queen Mother’s funeral.
    Then there was the trek through Europe – Germany, Greece, Italy, Belgium and France – in the first fortnight of July. That
    was the trip that got all the publicity a few months back after we learnt, at Senate estimates, that our own Kirribilli royal
    couple had paid $171,000 – including a $10,000 late checkout fee – to spend four nights in the so-called royal suite of a
    swank Rome hotel. Those two weeks in Europe ended up costing Australian taxpayers a tick over a million dollars –
    $1,025,638. We got the final cost a few weeks ago on Parliament’s last day before the winter recess”

  9. Dan Rowden says

    I think the real point here is that an act is not “charitable” if no personal sacrifice is made. Abbott may be participating in charity events but he is no sense being charitable.

    • Succinctly stated Dan.

      His attendances at these events are simply publicity stunts, designed to raise his profile and give the public the impressions he’s a nice bloke who is giving generously of his time as a volunteer, all for the split-second news grabs.

      For someone so keen on “stopping the waste”, he seems to be blind when he’s the one wasting the most.

  10. There are a few important questions here –

    (1) what does it say about someone’s personal ethics that they would consistently claim an allowance for undertaking community &/or charitable activities?
    (2) is that standard of personal ethics acceptable in our political representatives?
    (3) why is the definition of “official business”, for the purposes of claiming Travel Allowance , so generously broad?
    (4) who sets the TA guidelines & how can they be changed?

    If these issues are important to the public, then there should be an almighty hue & cry about them.

  11. Lorraine says

    I am also outraged by this perk. Go and meet a shopkeeper on one of your jaunts and it’s considered work, hire a plane and flit around to a few factories where you condemn the govt and it’s called work, swim in a race and it’s called work, ride a bike and it’s called work!! Well, in my book Mr Abbott does not know what real work is. All he is interested in is tearing down an elected govt, a legitimate govt despite what Mr Abbott says, promoting himself and having a great old time on the taxpayers purse. Shame on him. Our schools and our hospitals could do wonders on the amount he has wasted on his publicity stunts. Time the rules were tightened up. Why should taxpayers continue to foot the bill for these types of activities? Why should we pay for expensive trips anywhere? There is a travelling allowance available and if pollies can’t live on that amount find cheaper hotels, cheaper restaurants etc. Show that you are treating us with respect by ensuring you do not exceed amounts that would be considered reasonable by the electorate. As others have pointed out volunteering means giving up your time and remuneration in order to perform community service. Abbott’s behaviour is an absolute insult to all the volunteers who do not look for reimbursement for their good deeds.

  12. The other thing I find objectionable about Abbott’s so called voluntary work is how he has politicised the pollie pedal which started as a genuinely bipartisan event.

    This year, he blocked ALP MP Catherine King from participating but let her unelected Lib candidate take part.

  13. Lee-Anne says

    Thanks Dan Rowden, you sum it up succinctly.

  14. leonetwo says

    Here’s another Abbott rort no-one seems to have noticed.

    Last year on 3 November, Tony Abbott attended Derby Day at Flemington Racecourse with Margie, Bridget and Frances. According to Abbott’s Register of Interests they were guests of the Victoria Racing Club.
    Abbott made this family day out ‘official business’ by doing a non-event presser from the racecourse in which he was asked in-depth questions about the celebrities he hoped to meet – Sarah Jessica Parker was top of his list – which Abbott female had chosen his tie and what label the tie was.
    The presser allowed him to claim some expenses.
    #Overnight accommodation in Melbourne for two nights – 2 and 3 November – of $429 per night, plus $20 for Margie. A total of $878.
    #Comcar expenses of $83.84 for himself.
    #Family Comcar use of $80.80 in Sydney (Margie to the airport) and $230.44 in Melbourne.
    #’Family Traveller’ airfares of $507.82 on 3 November including a return flight to Sydney the next day.
    All justified by one lousy little presser that lasted a couple of minutes. One has to ask – did Victoria Racing pay any of the Abbott family’s expenses as well? Did Abbott, perhaps, claim for, say, accommodation and meals he didn’t actually pay for?

  15. I probably donated about 750 hours in the last year to a charity working with some of the most vulnerable people in the country (homeless, mentally ill, victims of domestic violence etc) and worked along side many, many very dedicated volunteers. I don’t recall any other volunteer calling a press conference every time they turned up for something. Volunteering means not expecting anything in return – no money, no brownie points in a popularity contest and certainly no opportunity to use the media to promote your credentials for a job you want.

    • Meg,with respect,how many times has Tony Abbott attended a bushfire or done volunteer surf life saving that wasn’t covered by the press?

      • Good point Steve – that’s exactly what I’d like to know. Has he, in fact, done any volunteering at all without a TV crew present?

      • Herman Koop says

        His so called 2 week volunteering in Indigenous communities only last 1 or 2 days. He disappears as soon as the media has gone. And his volunteering does not come cheap. Well over $30.000 for 2 days.

  16. It’s about character and about hypocrisy. TAbbott calls on others to answer questions about their previous actions because it may reflect on their character. What does it say about the character of TAbbott that he considers claiming expenses while volunteering in indigenous communities or participating in charity events?

    It’s the incongruity between the well recompensed actions of TAbbott and the way in which he and the media present these actions. This ( provides a few examples of entitlement claims from TAbbott’s Parliamentary Entitlement Reports cross-referenced against the media reports of his activities at the time. For example, TAbbott reported that he started the pollie pedal because he wanted to do “something that was a little bit selfless, something a little bit humble, and out of the ordinary”. Selflessly claiming expenses?

    It’s also the fact that TAbbott’s actions devalue the genuine contribution of many Australians who do volunteer their time and efforts without reimbursement, without media attention and often at significant personal and financial cost. I wonder whether the business people who volunteered with TAbbott on his working bee at Aurukun last year did so at their own expense. Were they aware that TAbbott was claiming his time as official duties, was receiving an allowance for his overnight stay and also received over $9600 for his chartered travel to and from Aurukun?

    And it reflects poorly on all politicians even though the standard TAbbott sets isn’t necessarily the standard of all his LNP colleagues. Media reports suggested that Kevin Andrews, Frydenberg, Bilson, Hunt, and Southcott also participated in the 2012 Pollie Peddle but according to their entitlement records made no travel allowance claim. Perhaps they really did do something “a little bit selfless”.

    Just one more point while I’m here, it is not the case that TAbbott only began this caper when he became opposition leader. While on a smaller scale: reports that the 2009 Pollie Pedal (the year before he became LOTO) started from Brisbane on 27 April and went to Brunswick Heads to Grafton to Dorrigo to Armidale to Wollar to Gloucester to Cessnock to Brooklyn and finished at Sydney University on May 5.
    In an amazing coincidence the 2009 Parliamentary Entitlement Report for TAbbott shows that from 26 May he claimed $72 travel allowance for each night ($648 all up) in respect of overnight stays in Brisbane and Brunswick Heads and Grafton and Dorrigo and Armidale and Wollar and Gloucester and Cessnock and Brooklyn.


  17. Thanks for the bullshit info steve using your sources which are liberal backers trouble with liberal sheep they have had the wool pulled over there eyes are fed bullshit and believe bullshit well you are the last of true believers abbott will be so proud just get over it steve abbott a loser liar and stole from taxpayers yes he paid it back after demands were sent but lets track back when labor bought it up abbott denied it and called it a labor beat up well abbott train has run off tracks no one believes him anymore the media are turning he a pollie without policy vision and now turnbull starting to talk which is great we now have positive rudd who everyone loves and abbott everyone dont trust him game over abbott could not beat gillard in election he lost

  18. The trouble with the true believers is they believe abbott every word as gospel he claims labor spending out of comtrol
    The rest of the world commend rudd gillard and swan on saving australia from gfc swan voted best treasurer in the world
    The boat people abbott claims australia being invaded by these vermin
    Fact its global many countries are taking refugee there are no bullshit outburst in there countries
    On seven news syria people fleeing there country are going into neighbours countrys 30000 a week
    Maybe howard started the influx with his unfound weapons of mass destruction in iraq and Afghanistan
    The abbott govt are short on policy content
    Fact they too busy spreading lies smear and fear
    Abbott doesnt answer questions at media events and runs
    Fact abbott not fit to be prime minister
    So before all you liberal trolls start reaching for liberal run or supported propaganda on rudd im not interested sick of the negative lies and smear what i like to see is a positive leader for australia future not a negative abbott who could start a war with his lies rudd will wipe the floor with abbott thats why he scared to debate aussie voter are sick of the negative abbott his days are numbered

  19. Ah Ha.I see now.Any point of view as long as it aligns with the Author is accepted on this site?
    Anything else isn’t?
    This site and 99% of the people who post here are pathetic.
    Wake up people.Get your heads out of the sand.Labor are costing you money and will cost your kids money in the future in the unlikely event they are re-elected.
    Now I will leave you all to give each other a pat on the back for your warm and fuzzy feel good posts.
    Have a nice day:)
    Might pop in for a quick hello after the election;)

  20. So any opinion as long as it is aligned with the authors is acceptable is ok but anything else isn’t?.
    99% of the people posting here are pathetic.Look at J.Frasers post advising me I need medical help.HAHA What a sad sorry person you must be when you can’t accept another opinion.Ditto for the rest of you.
    This site is a joke.
    Have a nice day:)

    • vivienne29 says

      Opinion is fine. But supporting lies is an entirely different matter. Now, go back to the likes of the IPA where you will be very much at home, or comment on Peter Reith on the Drum where you should get a very warm glow.

  21. So any opinion as long as it is aligned with

    the authors is acceptable is ok but anything

    else isn’t?.
    99% of the people posting here are

    pathetic.Look at J.Frasers post advising me

    I need medical help.HAHA What a sad sorry

    person you must be when you can’t accept

    another opinion.Ditto for the rest of you.
    This site is a joke.
    Have a nice day:)

    Ban me all you like.
    Typical Labor tactics.
    You weren’t expecting this to get through
    were you?Pathetic.

  22. So any opinion as long as it is aligned with

    the authors is acceptable is ok but anything

    else isn’t?.
    99% of the people posting here are

    pathetic.Look at J.Frasers post advising me

    I need medical help.HAHA What a sad sorry

    person you must be when you can’t accept

    another opinion.Ditto for the rest of you.
    This site is a joke.
    Have a nice day:)

    Ban me all you like.
    Typical Labor tactics.
    You weren’t expecting this to get through

    were you?Pathetic.

  23. Don’t like to hear the facts eh Bro?Your pathetic.

  24. Bruce Whiteside says

    You appear to have copped a bit of an earful Steve in respect of Kevin’s Rudd’s lowly accommodation abodes. Begs the question: How do you align with the poor when you live like a king. Thank you Steve.

  25. Tony Grant says

    I honestly believe come election day plus 1.5 hours we will all be breathing easier. I think the results on the east coast will (plus one hour Qld maybe an hour behind) say 8.30pm the signs will be all over Qld and neutral in NSW will be good. Polling in NSW has Labor 0.9% up on 2010 results at the moment.

    Rudd Vs Turnbull on the issue of wealth, I believe old Malcolm had dealings with Goldman Sachs that virtue American capitalism?

  26. So this means that Mr Abbott has his snout firmly and knowingly planted. A parasite.

  27. From my days as a Commonwealth employee I can say that the purpose of Travel Allowance was to reimburse personal costs for accommodation and meals while working away from home, not some sort of personal compensation. Many corporations now issue a corporate credit card so such costs can be identified.

    I assume the organisers of “pollie pedals” and such events already have such things as meals and accommodation covered and Abbott was probably staying in Caravan Parks (or whatever) along the way – or did he leave the main group and book into some 4 star Motel and dine in a local restaurant?

    The ethical thing to do would be to claim only those proven costs for out-of-pocket expenses and submit receipts accordingly.

    To claim full Daily Rate TA (which is completely non-taxable) under such circumstances is totally unethical and can be seen only as rort.

  28. You might not like the system but it’s not something specific to Tony Abbott. When your local MP turns up to shake hands at the multicultural cuisine day or whatever to play all friendly and welcoming, they consider that official business. Is it a rort? Probably. I think they should all be turfed out, myself, but to attack Abbott alone just betrays your bias. See website extract below; these events would provide the excuse for public funding.

    From the Pollie Pedal website:
    Pollie Pedal was started in 1998 by a number of federal and state politicians to raise money for various charities whilst giving smaller Australian communities the opportunity to meet members of Parliament.
    Opportunities to engage with Mr Abbott and other politicians riding through the region include:
    Monday, 29 April: Community welcome 1.30pm at Kingston football oval followed by a community forum at Kingston football club 2 – 4pm
    Tuesday, 30 April: Lunch in Millicent (TBC), welcome at the Cave Gardens in Mount Gambier 4 – 5pm
    Wednesday, 1 May: Community bike ride around Blue Lake, Mount Gambier, meeting at 8am at Blue Lake kiosk

    • Nice try except that it appeare other pollies did not make the same grab for cash.

      • Oh puhleese. The way she gained the too job showed a degree of rat cunning which Rudd could never aspire to. She used polling results that suited her and arranged for others to be kept hidden. Finally when it was on obvious she was leading the party to disaster her stubborn to contest the leadership forced the party to show open division. Rudd had the sense to firstly let her win unopposed and after one unsuccessful challenge to refuse to stand.

  29. Peoplearesuckers says

    Tony Abbott is an actor. Kevin Rudd is one too. The media love their performances and play the spotlight upon them. Julia Gillard was not an actress. She was real. She did not perform for the media. They did not like it. She has left the stage. We are left with two old hams.

  30. Is @TonyAbbottMHR really ‘volunteering’? – No Fibs via @NoFibs