Country MPs will no longer be able to claim money for staying with a friend while in Adelaide, as part of significant changes to the Members Accommodation Allowance.
- The $234-a-night Members Accommodation Allowance has been slashed to $185 for MPs with second residences in Adelaide
- MPs can no longer claim an allowance for staying with a friend in Adelaide
- Receipts are now needed to claim commercial accommodation costs up to $234 a night
The $234-a-night-allowance will be slashed to $185 a night for MPs who own or rent a second property in Adelaide, while MPs who stay in commercial accommodation will be required to produce receipts.
The Remuneration Tribunal independently sets the rules for MP allowances and has handed down its yearly review of the scheme.
An ABC investigation raised serious questions over its use by several MPs, which resulted in the resignations of four Liberal MPs and an ongoing investigation by the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption.
Receipts now required
MPs will now be reimbursed for commercial accommodation costs up to $234 a night, with MPs now required to provide receipts “as evidence of the amount of actual expenditure for each eligible night”.
Under previous rules, MPs were never required to show receipts.
“The Tribunal is aware that some Members may wish to utilise other accommodation arrangements when claiming an accommodation entitlement for eligible journeys to Adelaide,” the Remuneration Tribunal’s report states.
“These include, but are not limited to, staying with a friend or family member, or other types of non-commercial accommodation.
“For the future, the Tribunal is not satisfied that real costs are actually incurred in those circumstances.”
It goes on to state that the accommodation costs incurred must be “a genuine arms-length commercial transaction”.
A reduced rate of $185 each night will be paid to MPs using second residences in Adelaide but in order to claim the money, documentation will be required to show ownership or a rental agreement.
For parliamentarians who live outside metropolitan Adelaide but not further than 75 kilometres from the Adelaide GPO, they will receive up to $234 a night but only for commercial accommodation costs proved by receipt.
A second residence will not be covered under that arrangement, with the payment only covering 15 nights a year.
The tribunal has also flagged possible changes to claim forms required by relevant parliamentary officials “to ensure compliance with the terms of this Determination”.
However, it also states: “The Tribunal has no enforcement powers in relation to compliance issues at the workplace level.”
Changes to definitions
As the state grapples with the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the tribunal has frozen all MP allowances this year.
Member for Mawson Leon Bignell had argued that an allowance which covers travel to Kangaroo Island in his electorate should be increased due to this year’s bushfires.
The definition for an MP’s “usual place of residence” will be where they are enrolled to vote on the electoral roll, despite a submission by Greens MLC Mark Parnell to make the definition where an MP claims a primary residence tax exemption.
135 nights will still be covered by the scheme for MPs who live more than 75 kilometres from the Adelaide GPO.
That boundary will also stay the same despite calls for change.
Rules now also state an overnight stay in Adelaide cannot be “for the primary purpose of party political duties”, with greater detail given for parliamentary, electoral or community duties.