We have found a witch, might we burn her?

Monty Python had it right. The only way to really determine if someone should be demoted for misusing expenses is to see what sort of cellphone plan they are using.

When even the mild mannered and eminently reasonable Danyl McLauchlan over at The Dim-Post starts calling on Phil Goff to demote one of his MPs because of where he happened to pack his suit while taking an overseas flight, you know that this Ministerial expenses business is beginning to get a little bit out of hand.

(That said, he is the master of the satirical blog post, so if he was simply riffing on hyper-ventilating efforts like this, or this, then well played sir! Oh, well played indeed!!)

I think we can all agree that watching porn on the public purse (or buying golf clubs, or flowers for your partner) is wrong. Even worse, it is a political blunder, as I argued on TV here. So there's no disputing that this was not a genuine story worthy of coverage.

But there has to be a limit to the desire to flagellate those in, or formerly in, ministerial office for spending money while doing their job. If we want Ministers to meet with business leaders over meals to discuss policy, to travel overseas to the world's great cities on government business, to spend the best part of their lives working on our behalf from out of hotel rooms and suitcases, then we have to pick up the costs collectively.

The alternative is to ask someone else to pay for us. And would we be particularly happy to have our Minister of Fisheries going out to dinner on a fishing company's tab to discuss the level of future catch quotas, or our Minister of Trade begging China to pay for his hotel room whilst he tries to convince them to buy more of our lamb?

The problem is that having claimed one voluntary scalp (albeit temporarily) from National, and now three from Labour, there is so much blood in the water that a feeding frenzy has commenced. So clearly wrong spending (porn, golf clubs, flowers) gets discussed alongside grey spending ($155 bottles of champagne), which then gets elided with pretty obviously white spending (the cost of laundry services in hotels, a $1500 lunch to host the Australian Treasurer).

In this atmosphere, the onus has shifted from proving that a Minister has misused his or her expenses to assuming that he or she is guilty until the opposite is shown. So, to return to my opening paragraph, we see The Dim-Post speculating that Clayton Cosgrove committed fraud, and hence should be sacked summarily, by claiming the cost of a replacement suit after his luggage was lost. The evidence for this rather striking claim? Business class travellers don't pack their suits in their (ironically named) suitcases, but carry them on board the plane as hand luggage.

Well, I guess it's just a blogsite, so the standard of proof required for an allegation of criminal wrongdoing isn't exactly the same as a court of law. But really - aren't we starting to sound like the good citizens of Salem here? Which leads me to think, there must be a better way of sifting the innocent from the guilty here.

So, with all due recognition to Bedemir and King Arthur, I submit the following test to weed out those Ministers and former Ministers who should play no further part in our public life:

"What do we do with misspending Ministers? We demote them!

And what else do we demote? Poorly performing football teams!

So, why are Minister's demoted? Because they are a poorly performing football team!

And how do you tell if they are a poorly performing football team? Because they have a ridiculous name like the Socceroos!

What else has a ridiculous name? Telecom's XT mobile network!

So logically ...? If they have Telecom XT mobile phones, they must be a poorly performing football team! And therefore ...? They must be misspending Ministers!"

Easy as - now Duncan Garner just has to go around asking what sort of mobile plan all MPs are on. Saves going through all those boxes of paper, I suppose.