Former MPs’ allowances battle

Four former lower house MPs have launched a bid in the High Court to have their allowances indexed to the salaries of current MPs (about $195,000), rather than at pre-2011 levels (about $154,000). Labor’s Barry Cunningham, Tony Lamb and Barry Cohen and Liberal John Moore also demand in their writ of summons that unlimited domestic flights be reinstated in their retirement packages.

The challenge is to changes made by the then Gillard Government in 2011, which they claim have substantially reduced their allowances. The four former MPs currently receive between $81,000 and $115,000 per year, plus bonus allowances that depend on the roles they held in Parliament.

As reported by Fairfax media, which has seen the court documents, the former MPs are pursuing the same argument as that used by the Kerrigan family in the movie, The Castle. Section 51 allows the Commonwealth to acquire property on “just terms”, with the four claiming that the move represents an unlawful acquisition of their ‘property’ by the Commonwealth.

Changes to the Life Gold Pass are also under fire from the four men. Prior to changes in 2002, retired MPs could take unlimited domestic flights at the taxpayers’ expense. The changes in 2002 limited flights to 25 per year and further changes in 2012 imposed a limit of 10 per year. MPs who retired after 2012 receive no flight allowance.

Fairfax also reports that the men sought financial assistance from the Commonwealth to help progress their claim, but this was disallowed.

Read more at The Age

Opinion: Pull your heads in!
Seriously, how out of touch with reality are these four retired men, who believe that they are entitled to earn more doing nothing, when many of the people they served are struggling to get by on the mere pittance of an Age Pension? It’s simply flabbergasting that they can’t read the political and social landscape sufficiently to realise that MPs’ allowances are a bone of contention for most Australians.

To have the audacity to claim that their ‘property has been unlawfully acquired’ as a result of governments’ trying to redress the balance of over-generous retirement allowances suggests that they’re living on another planet. And don’t get me started on the fact that they tried to claim financial assistance from the very organisation, the Commonwealth, that they are trying to sue! I mean really, pull your heads in.

As yet more instances emerge of MPs claiming travel expenses for their families, or making excessive claims because they believe they are justifiable, news reports such as this only serve to highlight how rorted the whole MP remuneration and allowance system is.

With 41 per cent of retired Australians over the age of 65 relying on a full Age Pension of $22,365 a year, these men should be thankful for what they have, rather than trying to make a grab for cash and perks that they simply cannot need.

If this doesn’t serve to convince the powers that be that a change is needed in our parliamentary remuneration and allowance system, then nothing will.

Do you think MPs should get the generous pensions they do? Are these four former MPs right to fight for what they believe to be their entitlements? 

Written by Debbie McTaggart

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