August 14, 2015 Print

Photo credit: eGuide Travel, license CC BY 2.0.

Taxpayers deserve some measure of transparency and accountability in knowing how their funds are being spent, and whether these expenditures advance the betterment of society. In the wake of multiple “travel scandals,” in which Australian government officials relied on taxpayer money to fund extravagant and unnecessary travel expenditures, Atlas Network Partner the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance (ATA) has launched a campaign aimed at providing transparency to taxpayers regarding government travel expenses.

For example, Tony Burke, a member of Parliament, used taxpayer funds for a family holiday to Uluru; and Julia Gillard, former prime minister, had taxpayers fund a VIP jet for her to attend a friend’s wedding. The list goes on.

Many governments around the world have implemented “transparency portals” that detail how taxpayer money is spent. The U.S. government posts all expenditures greater than $25,000 online, and the European Union has a similar transparency mechanism. In 2010, an independent review commissioned by Australia’s Department of Finance called for this sort of transparency method as well, but the suggestion was ignored.

Through its campaign, ATA hopes to bring improved openness, transparency, and accountability to the Australian people. Its solution: “Require every politician and their staff members to publish online their travel, its cost, and its purpose, within 7 days of it being taken. Create an easy to use portal where every Australian voter can see what his MP and Senator has been doing, and if it is a wise use of funds.”

This process would ensure that government officials must justify their use of taxpayer funds to their constituents, who can therefore hold political leaders accountable. The project would be inexpensive, and could lead to more transparent governance and easy access to records, as well as a reduction in spending expenditure and corruption.