Sunday 11 April 2010

Bushfires and expenses

Andrew Bolt is making hay at the moment over Christine Nixon and her decision to feed her face whilst over a hundred people were burning to death.

I will start by saying that I can understand getting out of the command centre for a while and to have a meal away from the action. Sometimes you need to take a break in order to do a bit of strategic thinking, and to bounce ideas off other people. A meal in a pub is not a bad way to do that.

That said, Nixon appears to have all the command presence of a marshmallow. I doubt she could lead a bunch of hippies to Nimbin for a week long bong fest.

But instead of ranting about her leadership qualities and decision making abilities, let us think for a moment about her meal, and her expenses situation.

One government department that I worked for had a "reasonable meal expenses" policy. What that meant is that if I had to go away, or got called out on a weekend etc, I could eat pretty much where I wanted and what I wanted and just claim the expense. I had some damned fine meals at some good country restaurants under that policy.

After a merger with another department, we were suddenly saddled with a fixed rate expenses policy - the meal allowance was barely enough to cover a small meal from McDonalds.

Under the fixed rate policy, there was no incentive to travel for work, which meant that our far flung sites never saw another city based person ever again. If I was going to spend a night away from home, or a week away from home, the least the company could give me was a good feed at the end of a long day. When the bastards took that away, I said, "Fuck it" and stopped volunteering for the trips. My stomach has principles.

Under the former policy, the incentive of course was to spend lots of someone else's money on yourself, which meant that I ate a lot of oysters and ate at a fancier grade of restaurant than I normally would have. I even bought a gourmet guide to the eating places of country NSW, and worked my way through most of it before the hammer came down. I noshed well, which is partly why I now need to ride a lot - I have a lot of all-expenses paid three course meals to work off.

I bet Nixon was under the "reasonable meal expenses" policy, which means it would make sense for her to leave the command post and have a really good meal (courtesy of the taxpayer) rather than staying put and having cheap pizza. What is the point of expensing a cheap, lousy meal?

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