"The age of entitlement is over".
I'm sure it seemed like a good slogan when it was cooked up, at least to the party room hacks and spin doctors in Tony Abbott’s government. Of course it was only going to be a matter of time before they tripped over their own words: “The age of entitlement is over”.
The latest to do so was Speaker Bronwyn Bishop when, last week, it was revealed that in November 2014 she spent more than $5000 chartering a helicopter from Melbourne to Geelong to attend a Liberal Party fundraiser at a golf course. Of course, she claimed it as a parliamentary travel expense.
When making a list of places I could go for $5000, Geelong would be pretty low down on the list. This is not to knock Geelong, but to point out that spending that amount of money for a journey that takes a bit over an hour by car from Melbourne is more than a tad excessive.
I'm sure it was absolutely essential for Bishop to be present and hob-knobbing with Liberal Party donors, and maybe it was worth it — a volunteer at the golf course described her arrival as “spectacular” — so maybe that wowed the donors into giving more.
But why not get the Liberal Party or one of the donors to stump for the helicopter? $5000 is the usual cost of a ticket to one of these functions, especially one held at a golf course.
Only once the story featured in the mainstream media and government ministers were beginning to ask for a “please explain” did Bishop offer to repay the money. At the same time, she continued to justify the expenditure by saying the claims were within the parliamentary rules and her travel entitlements. Entitlement, indeed! Hoist by her own petard.
Sadly, these things are hardly surprising in a system where inequality is growing and the knives of austerity are being sharpened. But it does show the gulf between politicians and those they supposedly represent; how the privileges and perks of parliament make their interests totally divorced from those of the 99%.
This also highlights why we need a media independent from corporate interests. It is not enough to just call out the blatant hypocrisy of politicians, we need a media that challenges the fundamental inequality that is part of the system.
The ruling class and the cheerleaders for the status quo will always have a platform in the capitalist media. This is why Green Left Weekly strives to be different, to be internationalist and bring the coverage and analysis of the social movements around the world that is sorely lacking. It is also why Green Left needs support to keep up this coverage of the movements from the grassroots.
You can help us continue this vital work by donating to the GLW fighting fund on the toll-free line at 1800 634 206 (within Australia). Donations can also be made to Green Left Weekly, Commonwealth Bank, BSB 062-006, Account no. 00901992. Otherwise you can send a cheque or money order to PO Box 394, Broadway NSW 2007.