Political expenses: Should we pay for our politicians to attend the grand final?

Political expenses: Should we pay for our politicians to attend the grand final?

Political expenses: Should we pay for our politicians to attend the grand final?

Updated 1 October 2017, 10:10 AEDT

Each year, there are a few predictable weekends when our federal parliamentarians seem to find themselves in Melbourne for official duties but coincidentally they are the same weekends as AFL grand final, the Melbourne Cup and the finals of the Australian Open.

Each year, there are a few predictable weekends when our federal parliamentarians seem to find themselves in Melbourne for official duties.

Coincidently, they are the same weekends as the AFL grand final, the Melbourne Cup and the finals of the Australian Open.

Even the AFL has started cracking jokes about how common it is to see politicians in corporate boxes.

"I read with interest earlier this week that [Foreign Minister] Julie Bishop did not arrange her travel with the purpose of attending an AFL match," North Melbourne chairman Ben Buckley quipped to the AFL's grand final breakfast yesterday morning.

"Coincidentally, at 5:30pm, there's an emergency meeting of the Federal Cabinet International Relations Committee in the Yarra Room at the MCG."

Ms Bishop gave the crowd the thumbs up as they howled with laughter.

Many politicians consider loving sport part of their official duties — whether it is sincere or not — so it was a surprise to learn this week that one Government minister "hates sport".

He did not attend yesterday afternoon's "meeting" at the MCG.

Corporate perks of Parliament

Sport — and music — loving politicians are a soft target for companies and lobby groups with free tickets to corporate boxes.

The crooning of pop star Adele may have soothed some tensions between the big banks and the Treasurer, when Scott Morrison accepted their hospitality earlier this year.

Jeep and Peroni wooed Ms Bishop at the Portsea Polo in 2016.

And the National Australia Bank invited Finance Minister Mathias Cormann to the 2013 grand final, along with two of his Liberal Party colleagues.

Is it official business?

This year, ABC News asked frontbenchers on both sides whether they would be attending the AFL or NRL grand final and, just for good measure, threw in a question about who was paying.

Labor ranks were quick to respond, but there was silence from most on the Government's benches.

That was more about who is in power than any political persuasion — those who missed out on corporate hospitality were the quickest to declare it.

Ms Bishop, spied in the stands at the MCG, did not respond, nor did Senator Cormann and his 2013 grand final friend Trade Minister Steve Ciobo.

There was silence too from Victorian MPs Greg Hunt, Kelly O'Dwyer, Josh Frydenberg and Dan Tehan.

Labor's Kate Ellis was attending as the Adelaide Crow's number-one ticket holder, and the Opposition's spokesman for sport Don Farrell was paying for his own ticket to the match.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said they would be attending both grand finals as guests of both codes.

So who should pay?

The freebies for parliamentarians should come out in the wash within the next month, when they declare the tickets and hospitality as official gifts.

But the public will have to wait a little longer to find out if they footed the bill for travel, because the expense reports are not due out until sometime next year.

Ministers are allowed to claim for travel relating to their office, which may explain why so many find business in Melbourne around the time of major sporting events.

Travel for private purposes is prohibited.

"Ministers must be scrupulous in ensuring the legitimacy and accuracy of any claim for entitlement to ministerial, parliamentary or travel allowance," the Ministerial Standards state.

"Although [ministers'] public lives encroach upon their private lives, it is critical that ministers do not use public office for private purposes."