June 2nd, 2009 at 11:29pm
Defence minister Joel Fitzgibbon has corrected his entires on the Register of Members’ Interests once again. As ABC News points out:
Earlier this year, Mr Fitzgibbon apologised for not declaring trips to China paid for by businesswoman, Helen Liu.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd ordered him to check his records for any other undeclared gifts.
This evening Mr Fitzgibbon has told parliament his staff have discovered that he had not declared a night’s accommodation that was paid for by the NIB Health fund.
However what ABC Online omit from this story is Joel Fitzgibbon’s bizarre explanation for failing to declare the accomodation on this occasion. Thankfully, it’s AAP to the rescue:
In a brief personal explanation to the House of Representatives, Mr Fitzgibbon said his staff had identified an occasion in June 2008 where he accepted accommodation paid for by NIB Health Funds, of which his brother is chief executive.
He said the original plan was to share accommodation booked by his brother.
Mr Fitzgibbon was attending a State of Origin match in Brisbane.
“Due to a last minute change in his plans, my brother was unable to join me. As a result I paid for the accommodation,” he said.
“Shortly thereafter I learned that NIB had contacted the hotel and cancelled my payment and substituted it with their own. I can only say that it is this confusion that led me to overlook the need to declare the sponsored accommodation.”
Mr Fitzgibbon said the hotel bill was $450.
MPs must declared any hospitality from a private source worth more than $300.
A couple points here. Firstly, in my experience, it is quite normal to pay for accommodation as one leaves a hotel, often by credit card, in which case the debt is effectively settled on the spot even if the payment takes a little while to show up on one’s statement. Why any sane hotel would go through the administrative hassle of reversing a completed payment only to substitute it for another payment, and deal with the associated bank/transaction fees, and not bother to inform the original payer, let alone seek their consent, is beyond me.
Secondly, if we assume that the story is true and Mr. Fitzgibbon found out “shortly thereafter” about the musical chairs act with the payment, why did he take nearly a year to disclose it?
I suppose that I should also echo the point made by the federal opposition’s spokesman on emissions trading, Andrew Robb, on Lateline tonight. Why wait until 9:30pm, when half, if not more, of the politicians and journalists have gone home for the night, to make the apology?
One wonders what Mr. Fitzgibbon will remember to apologise for next.
I don’t begrudge Mr. Fitzgibbon these gifts, but it’s a pretty simple task to disclose them, and quite frankly if you aren’t capable of disclosing gifts, I fail to see how you can be considered competent enough to be the minister for defence…and if you insist on keeping secrets, don’t be surprised if your underlings start spying on you again.