MPs 'use cabs as limos'

Peter Slipper
Peter Slipper Warren Lynam

A SENIOR cab industry official has said Peter Slipper was not alone in the way he used taxis like limousines.

The official said that since the winding back of access to Commonwealth cars, MPs used taxis for their shopping and other errands and often kept them waiting with the meter running.

"They consider it their entitlement," he said.

The official said that even 30 years ago, when the Commonwealth ran its own fleet of cars, ministerial drivers could earn up to $160,000 a year with overtime.

It was not uncommon for eight to 10 Commonwealth cars to be formed in a circle near Lake Burley Griffin while drivers, many of whom would be on call from 6.30am to midnight, would catch up on their sleep.

One would stand cockatoo, holding all the communication devices, to wake drivers if they received a callout.

Mr Slipper is facing a police investigation into allegations that he misused taxi vouchers.

Mr Slipper released a series of vouchers which he says support his claims of innocence but which in many ways raise fresh questions.

He has consistently refused to detail the parliamentary or electoral business he was transacting to incur the expenses.

The release of a full Department of Finance investigation into Mr Slipper's spending during the second half of 2009 is due on May 2 unless a third party seeks an internal review or appeals to the Office of the Information Commissioner.

Mr Slipper declared himself cleared by the investigation but refused to release the document or any written advice supporting the claim.

The department's legal affairs division agreed to the document's release following a Freedom of Information request from the Sunshine Coast Daily.

It has yet to receive an appeal against its decision.

A spokesman said that an interested party may act right up to the 30th day of the appeal period.

A Sunshine Coast Daily investigation discovered that on October 12, 2010, Mr Slipper engaged a cab from 3.50pm to 6.09pm at a cost of $189.

He was picked up at Parliament House and travelled through several Canberra suburbs before spending considerable time at his home in Hughes, which is only a short distance from where the journey started.

The hire ended in the city near a well-known watering hole.

At 7.57pm he was picked up by another cab which took him at a cost of $40, an amount which accurately reflected the cost of the journey, to a Wanniassa restaurant called the Turkish Grill.

He was picked up later by another cab and taken to his Hughes home at a cost of $81.92, which included waiting time.

The next day he was picked up in Deakin and returned to his Hughes home then out again to the shops and finally home to stay at a cost of $182, an exercise that included considerable waiting time.

On the same day he went from Hughes to Parliament House, a journey of 10 to 15 minutes, that cost $84 when it became nearly an hour because of a detour to the Deakin shops and a cab left waiting.

Canberra cab sources, asked for impressions of the Member for Fisher, said he "appears to like a drink" and that he was not always ready when taxis arrived for him.

On the Sunshine Coast last week Barnaby Joyce, the Nationals Leader in the Senate, said Mr Slipper had serious personal issues that "everyone was aware of".

Topics:  cabs peter slipper politics taxi transport

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