Hey big spender: federal member tight-lipped over $350,624 expenses

MEMBER for Calare John Cobb spent $350,624 of taxpayers’ money last year, which was about $122,000 more than the member for Riverina, whose electorate is larger.

Mr Cobb declined to be interviewed about the specifics of what taxpayers paid for in 2013, but said in a statement he undertook his role as a member and opposition spokesperson within parliamentary entitlements. 

Every member is provided a capped entitlement at the beginning of each financial year, based on the number of voters in each electorate, yet member for Riverina Michael McCormack, who lives in Wagga Wagga, spent $228,436, which is $122,188 less than Mr Cobb.

Mr McCormack was not an opposition spokesperson, unlike Mr Cobb who was opposition spokesperson for agriculture and food security. 

In the statement Mr Cobb said as opposition spokesperson for agriculture he often had to travel interstate and throughout NSW to meet with industry groups. 

However, the biggest cost difference between the pair was not in travel expenses but office administrative costs. 

Mr Cobb spent $17,939 more in travel, including airfares and car costs, than Mr McCormack.

But it cost $181,571 in administrative costs to run Mr Cobb’s two electorate offices in Bathurst and Orange, $87,986 more than what it cost to run Mr McCormack’s offices in Wagga Wagga and Griffith. 

Both politicians have offices in Parliament House. 

In comparison, it cost Prime Minister Tony Abbott $208,631 in office administrative costs, just $27,060 more than Mr Cobb. 

The Calare electorate has 145,314 constituents and the Riverina electorate has 145,032 constituents,  according to the 2011 census, yet the Riverina is double the size of Calare at 61,435 square kilometres. 

In one two-day trip in August, 2013, Mr Cobb travelled to Rockhampton. Taxpayers paid about $2729 in air travel costs alone, but Mr Cobb would not say what the trip was for.

Similarly, he was asked the purpose of a two-day trip to Darwin that cost $3013 in July, but he declined to answer.

In his statement he said it was not reasonable to compare members of parliament’s different parliamentary roles. 

For every trip flight to Sydney Mr Cobb spent $351 one-way.

He said travel was often required to be booked with short notice, which resulted in higher than normal fares. 

Taxpayers also paid $11,421 on Mr Cobb’s family travel expenses for the year.

John Cobb, Member for Calare

Previous to election the opposition spokesperson for agriculture and food security. 

Total spend: $350,624 (Office administrative costs: $181,571, Travel costs, including flights, charter and car costs:  $64,411)

Tony Abbott, Prime Minister

Previous to election the leader of the opposition.

Total spend: $743,928 (Office administrative costs: $208,631, Travel costs, including flights, charter and car costs: $360,839)

Michael McCormack, Member for Riverina

Previous to election opposition parliamentary secretary for regional health

Total spend: $228,436 (Office administrative costs: $93,585, Travel costs, including flights, charter and car costs: $46,472)

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