Julia Gillard and the $4,243 Misused Taxpayer-Funded Car

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By Athena Yenko | September 17, 2013 12:17 PM EST

Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard issued a personal cheque worth $4,243 to the Department of Finance because Tim Mathieson had misused her taxpayer-funded car, The Australian exclusively reports. Late in 2012, a whistleblower tipped The Australian that Mr Mathieson was heavily using the taxpayer-funded car as he worked as PPS Hairwear salesman.

The misused happened in breach of parliamentary rules when Mr Mathieson drove the car around Victoria selling shampoo and other haircare products. Mr Mathieson is a hairdresser and had started seeing Ms Gillard back in 2006. After the period when their relationship became official, Mr Mathieson worked for PPS Hairwear and drove around Victoria. Under the parliamentary rules, Mr Mathieson is allowed to use the car provided he will not use it for personal business.

Under Freedom of Information Laws, documents proving the alleged $4,243 misused was obtained by The Australian. According to the documents obtained,  Ms Gillard issued the cheque in March 9, 2007 to avoid further breach of rules, forbidding the use of taxpayer-funded car for commercial purposes.  These documents were finally released on Monday, Sept 16, after ten months of Ms Gillard fighting the Department of Finance against releasing the materials. 

Information Commissioner John McMillan ruled against Ms Gillard's move to block the release of the documents.

"The central facts disclosed in the documents are that there may have been an incident of non-compliance with government guidelines on parliamentary entitlements. Members of parliament would be aware that their enjoyment of parliamentary entitlements must comply with relevant rules or guidelines, and that this will be independently scrutinised. In that event, it could reasonably be expected that information would be released as to whether the enjoyment of parliamentary entitlements complied with government guidelines, including whether the enjoyment of those entitlements by a family member complied," Mr McMillan ruled.

One of the documents obtained by The Australian is a letter written by Ms Gillard's then chief of staff dated Mar 2007 along with a copy of Ms Gillard's personal cheque. The letter was addressed to the entitlements manager of the Department of Finance.

"Following the election of Julia Gillard as deputy leader of the opposition and my subsequent appointment as chief of staff, Ms Gillard asked me to undertake a comprehensive check of her entitlements." I am writing to address an issue. In relation to the use of Ms Gillard's private-plated vehicle, I believe there may have been some use of the car outside of the guidelines, particularly in relation to guideline 4.4.7." To ensure absolute compliance with the guidelines, please find enclosed a payment of $4243.58 to reimburse the department for the use of the vehicle," according to the letter. An internal memo from the Department of Finance stated that the repayment is related to Ms Gillard's partner's use of the vehicle as "partner is nominated driver."

Documents obtained from the Parliamentary Library of records revealed that travel funds for Ms Gillard had cost the taxpayers $9,200 in the second half of 2006 as compared to $4,162 in 2005.

Bruce Wolpe, a spokesman for Ms Gilard told The Australian that Ms Gillard and Mr  Mathieson chose not to comment about the issue.

Other documents also revealed that Ms Gillard's car was involved in minor accidents, leading to insurance claims for repairs.

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