January 26, 2016 – 4:21PM
Nola Marino says she and Louise Markus ‘collaborated’ on their reports. Photo: Andrew Meares
It’s the political equivalent of copying each other’s homework – but a pair of Liberal MPS who filed remarkably similar overseas study tour reports appear not to have broken any rules.
Liberal MP Nola Marino confirmed to Fairfax Media she “collaborated” with colleague Louise Markus to produce the travel reports about a study tour the pair took to Papua New Guinea.
The pair of five-page reports – which are the only requirement the Finance Department imposes on MPs returning from taxpayer-funded overseas trips that can cost thousands of dollars – cover a six-day journey to PNG as part of the Pacific Partnership Humanitarian Civic Assistance program from June 29 to July 4 last year. Large blocks of text in the report are almost, but not quite, identical.
Louise Markus and her staff did not respond to requests for comment.
On its website, Finance states MPs must be aware of sensitive material they may learn when they submit an overseas study tour travel report within 30 days of returning overseas. It asks that MPs keep their reports to five pages and notes that “the responsibility for accuracy, completeness and presentation of a report rests with the individual Senator or Member”. No mention is made of “collaboration”.
On their trip, Ms Marino and Ms Markus met doctors, parliamentarians and NGOs, visited a World War II memorial and toured the naval ship USNS Mercy during their taxpayer-funded trip to Bougainville.
On returning to Australia, Ms Marino stated time working “to clean and restore the Memorial at Arawa was a profound, moving experience”, while Ms Markus said the opportunity “to clean and restore this memorial was significant”.
The memorial is a “visible sign of Australia’s commitment to Bougainville and continuing respect for [local clan leader] Baros of Siroui”, according to Ms Marino, and a “visible sign of our commitment to Bougainville and the ADF’s enduring gratitude to Baros of Siroui”, according to Ms Markus.
“Hundreds of local people requiring treatment lined up daily” at the medical clinic at Arawa Hospital, according to Ms Markus; Ms Marino states there were “hundreds of people who needed treatment across a wide range of issues lining up on a daily basis”.
A briefing with Dr Joe Belosi revealed he had “conducted 18 surgical procedures by torchlight without anaesthetic and C-sections under local anaesthetic,” Ms Markus wrote; Ms Marino noted “18 surgical procedures by torchlight, without anesthetic and caesarean sections under local anaesthetic”.
Both wrote the doctor had “spent his life saving mothers and babies” – or that he had “spent a lifetime saving mothers and babies”.
A visit to a workshop on family violence revealed the need for “law and order to be addressed as a priority,” according to Ms Markus; according to Ms Marino participants stressed the “priority of law and order”.
Both MPs expressed an identical in “our deep appreciation and commitment to the mission of the Pacific Partnership 2015”.
Concluding her report, Ms Marino said the program had “provided extremely valuable information and direct insight into the current and future challenges facing Bougainville and potential solutions”.
Ms Markus said it had provided immeasurably valuable insights into the challenges facing Bougainville and potential solutions”.
Fairfax Media submitted a series of detailed questions about who had written the two reports, whether one MP had plagiarised the other, whether a third party had written both reports and why the reports were so similar.
Ms Marino said in response that ” the trip was part of the parliamentary defence force visit program and Louise and I collaborated on our parliamentary reports”.
Ms Markus and her staff did not respond to requests for comment.
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/we-collaborated-the-liberal-mps-the-png-study-tour-and-the-remarkably-similar-travel-reports-20160126-gme3xi.html#ixzz3yONAVtXO
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