Parliamentary perks revealed: politicians' links with screen industry
[Wed 12/09/2012 09:51:46]
By Anthony Soegito
The pay-TV industry’s lobby group offered every federal Member of Parliament free FOXTEL packages worth almost $200,000 last year.
A joint effort by Fairfax newspapers and journalism students at the University of Technology Sydney culminated in a digital database detailing the perks received by members of Parliament. The list, made available on the Sydney Morning Herald website, reveals strong links with the screen industry, where everything from free DVDs to glamorous celebrity dinners to overseas trips worth thousands of dollars was claimed by MPs dating back to the 2010 election.
The most common gift or service offered to MPs from the screen industry was free FOXTEL subscriptions provided by the Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association (ASTRA).
The association said the service “is provided to ensure MPs have an understanding of the breadth and diversity of channels available on subscription television. The offer is made directly to Federal members advising that they be mindful of the need to disclose acceptance of the offer on the pecuniary interests register.”
However, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, only fifty-five MPs have declared it, which is a breach of disclosure obligations that were put in place to mitigate conflicts of interest. The package is worth $130 a month, $1560 a year, and according to ASTRA and is only offered to the member’s electoral office.
FOXTEL packages were not the only screen industry perks enjoyed by federal politicians. Senator Stephen Conroy, the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, is currently overseeing the 2013 transfer of all free-to-air television into the digital format. Senator Conroy attended live events such as the Australian Formula One Grand Prix and the Press Gallery Mid Winter Ball (both courtesy of Network Ten), and received two tickets to the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa (courtesy of SBS) and a gift basket from Channel Seven.
The Shadow Minister for Tourism, Bob Baldwin, a member for Paterson in NSW, used his perks to create a tourism campaign. The ‘Staycation’ campaign is designed to encourage Australians to enjoy a vacation around Australia as opposed to abroad and was funded by Baldwin, Shangri-La Hotels and Qantas. The perks involved flying a film crew from Unseen Productions from Sydney to Cairns via Qantas with accommodation provided by Shangri-La Hotels in Cairns.
Other perks enjoyed by MPs were of a glamorous nature. NSW Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells enjoyed gifts ranging from hats, t-shirts and key rings from SBS – at just under $50 in value – to a table at the Spettacolare Dinner with Sophia Loren as a guest of the Italian Australian Film Festival valued at $1600. The member for Kooyong, Josh Frydenberg enjoyed tickets to a MasterChef launch event, courtesy of Network Ten, where his wife Amie Frydenberg won a raffle consisting of two return economy airfares to Bangkok provided by Qantas in addition to a Sunbeam Mixmaster.
Accommodation was another perk provided by Australian TV networks. Barnaby Joyce enjoyed accommodation from both the ABC and the Nine Network, as did Nicola Roxon. Scott Morrison, member for Cook in NSW, received accommodation from the Seven Network on two occasions. Other lesser perks include a free copy of East West 101 Season Three that was given to Craig Emerson of Rankin in Queensland by SBS.
[Wed 12/09/2012 09:51:46]