Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has promised to overhaul the “absolutely antiquated” system used to manage parliamentarians’ expense claims.
Speaking at a press conference, Turnbull said that modernising the system would “have the greatest impact in the medium and long-term” when it came to reforming the parliamentary entitlements system.
“The system that manages entitlements will be modernised to allow monthly disclosure of parliamentarians' expenses in an accessible, searchable format,” Turnbull said.
“One of the problems that we have with the existing system is that the IT is absolutely antiquated. Most of the forms are filled in by the politicians by hand. It is all paper-based.
“The reports that you do find on the Department of Finance website are big PDF files. They are months out-of-date when they are posted.”
Turnbull said he would be looking to the United Kingdom as a model for a revised entitlements system.
“If you look at what the UK does, the information is put up very promptly - I think it runs about two months in arrears,” Turnbull said.
“But you can go to any Member of the House of Commons and you can see what they have spent and why they spent it and so forth. It is very easily searchable. That is what we need to do.”
Turnbull has previously looked to the UK for digital direction, modelling his planned GOV.AU single government website on one already used in Britain (though the Australian initiative has now been mostly abandoned).
He said today he was “not slavishly bound to the United Kingdom model” for entitlements management.
Turnbull said he had directed the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to ensure the system modernisation “gets the urgent attention it requires.”
In addition to the IT changes, Turnbull said the government would set up an independent parliamentary expenses authority to “monitor and adjudicate all claims by MPs, senators and ministers, ensuring that taxpayers' funds are spent appropriately and in compliance with the rules.”
The actions come after successive scandals involving government ministers’ claims for travel.