Well known journalist Malcolm Farr tweeted “No suggestion Gladys B is corrupt in the grabbing-fistfuls-of-dollars sense but taxpayer money should not be used to pay romance insurance.”1
While I had a chortle at the epithet ‘romance insurance’, there is something about this simplistic separation which troubles me. What is the difference between: a) someone in Gladys’ position grabbing a fistful of taxpayer funds to give to her boyfriend and; b) spending taxpayer funds to help her boyfriend get re-elected so he can continue to draw a parliamentarian’s salary, which is currently about $169,192?2
If I happened to be a public servant and simply stole $169,192 in taxpayer funds, I would probably go to gaol. If I gave that money to my partner, we would probably both go to gaol. However, if I was a politician and pork barrelled an electorate with millions, solely to allow my partner to continue to receive his $169,192 per annum, that would be perfectly OK according to many in the media3.
Both are criminal acts, it is just that the one perpetrated by the politician is a little more involved than just tickling the peter. However, it amounts to the same thing.