Taxpayers to cover pollies’ $20k quarantine costs
Federal MPs and their staff could pocket more than $20,000 each before Christmas with taxpayers picking up the bill for them to quarantine and remain in COVID-free Canberra.
With many parliamentarians still forced to quarantine when travelling to or from the ACT, dozens of MPs and staff will return to Canberra on Sunday to begin two weeks of self-isolation ahead of the next sitting week in October.
Many MPs and political staff will remain in Canberra for up to 12 weeks as the sitting schedule will make it difficult to return to their home electorates and meet quarantine criteria.
While Australians are forced to pay $3000 for a two-week stay in a quarantine hotel, News Corp Australia has confirmed taxpayers will pick up the bill for MPs and their staff to quarantine at hotels and apartments.
A spokesman for the independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority (IPEA) confirmed that MPs and staff can claim up to $291 a night in Travel Allowance to stay in Canberra whether parliament is sitting or not.
"This would include where a parliamentarian must undertake mandatory quarantine, away from their home, before or after attending sittings of parliament as the parliamentarian would not be able to conduct their parliamentary business otherwise," the spokesman said.
That means politicians and staff that arrive in Canberra on Sunday and stay until the final sitting week in December will pocket more than $20,000 dollars each.
Politicians are allowed to claim up to $291 a night to stay in Canberra tax-free, even if they stay in their own homes.
Many MPs and staff share apartments or rent single rooms meaning their accommodation costs are significantly lower than the allowance, meaning they can pocket the difference.
COVID-19 restrictions mean MPs and staff from Victoria are forced to spend two weeks in quarantine in Canberra or at home in Melbourne before attending parliament.
Parliament will not break for longer than two weeks before Christmas, making it impossible for MPs to return home between sitting periods.
Recent changes to border rules mean MPs and staff from South Australia and Queensland will be allowed to return home between sitting weeks if they haven't crossed the NSW border in the two weeks prior to their return.
Last sitting week 19 lower house members - primarily from Victoria and Queensland - chose to stay in their home electorates and contribute virtually via a videolink due to quarantine rules.
MPs attending via videolink are unable to vote but can ask questions during Question Time and speak as part of debates.
Originally published as Taxpayers to cover pollies' $20k quarantine costs