Age of entitlement is over: no more gravy plane for MPs

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Malcolm Turnbull stirred up controversy in Parliament yesterday when he announced that the Life Gold Pass will be cut, saying it will be effective immediately instead of over a phase-out period.

The move came as a surprise to the Coalition and has angered many members of parliament, particularly those nearing retirement, who are now unable to receive free business class travel. The perk will remain available to former prime ministers only, although millionaire Mr Turnbull says he will not use it.

The Life Gold Pass, which was established in 1918 to provide members of Parliament with taxpayer-subsidised rail travel, has since grown to be an extravagant entitlement, allowing MPs free business class travel post-retirement, with virtually no accountability.

Over time, the specifications for the entitlement have changed. During the Howard Government, the free travel perk was widened and the ‘severance traveller package’ was introduced to include every MP not eligible for the Life Gold Pass. MPs could use this perk for between six months and five years after they retired from Parliament. However, as The Australian reports, some former MPs were still receiving free travel up to 40 years post-retirement.

Now, this is all at an end. Mr Turnbull’s announcement follows the recent scandal involving former MP Sussan Ley. The then-Federal Minister for Health and Aged Care, and Minister for Sport stepped down last month when it was revealed she had travelled to the Gold Coast 17 times between 2013 and 2016, costing the Australian taxpayer over $40,000.

The Prime Minster says this move is part of a reform of the parliamentary expenses system, which utilises recommendations from last year’s expenses review. The review, which began in 2015, after former Speaker Bronwyn Bishop was found to have used $5227 of taxpayer money to fund a helicopter charter to a party fundraiser, was left to simmer last year.

According to The Australian, the Life Gold Pass has cost taxpayers $17.2 million since 2001.

Read more at theaustralian.com.au

Opinion: Finishing what was started

Finally, we see some positive change put in to effect.

In 2011, then-Prime Minister Julia Gillard took the first steps to axe the Life Gold Pass scheme by prohibiting it to new members and reducing the number of flights permitted. Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey’s widely hated first 2014 Budget also moved along the process of curbing entitlements for retired MPs over a period of six years. Now, Prime Minister Turnbull is finishing what was started.

While many MPs have used the travel privilege over the years to help community groups and charities, others have treated it as a personal airline charter service. What began as a simple rail travel pass 100 years ago became an entitlement exploited by too many MPs.

Cutting the perk is a bold and surprisingly progressive move by the PM, especially given the immediacy of its execution. No doubt, it’s a move that will be well received by the Australian people. However, before we celebrate, let’s take a moment to consider the motive and context in which this announcement was made. Is it worth questioning the PM’s timing on this?

What do you think? Does the timing of this long-awaited policy change seem somewhat suspicious? Or do you think the PM simply made the right decision and closed the book on what had become a drawn out issue?

Below is the list of claims by current Life Gold Pass holders, effective 1 January to 30 June 2016:

Peter Slipper $12,620.23

Simon Crean $9827.61

Fran Bailey $6732.59

Michael Ronaldson $7494.10

Nicola Roxon $5013.09

David Hawker $4306.80

Bob McMullan $3901.13

Grant Chapman $2469.93 Family claim $376.87

Ron Boswell $2344.07

Bruce Scott $1201.48 Family claim $1201.48

Alex Somlyay $1597.52

Stephen Smitth $1561.64

Martin Ferguson $1299.38

Dick Adams $831.02

Alan Griffin $819.80

Helen Coonan $656.40

Laurie Ferguson $328.20

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Written by ameliath

107 Comments

Total Comments: 107
  1. 0
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    About time and bring on the rest of the proposed changes

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      How can you tell Turnbull and his government are on the way out? Answer: they are dragged kicking and screaming to do what should have been done years ago. I mean this crew have been in government 16 out of the last 20 years have they not? And they wait until now?
      We will have a new government after the next election. Not sure what it will look like but one can only hope that it will be a mix made up of significant numbers of Independents and minor parties. Then we may see the reappearance of democracy. Can’t wait. Long overdue that the nation is put ahead of giving taxpayer money to the rich.

    • 0
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      Is that right MiCK. I wondered why there was nothing left that hadn’t been sold off or privatised or contracted out to business buddies. That certainly explains the budget deficit thing.

    • 0
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      Don’t forget Rae…..it’s all “Labor’s fault” even though the LNP have been in office for 16 out of the last 20 years.
      The word ‘corruption’ needs a special annotation for use in politics and there needs to be prison time for politicians of all manner who sell out the country to their rich election donation Santa Claus buddies.

    • 0
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      Mick , While I prefer Labor to Liberals [ the lesser of 2 evils ] , I am also finding it hard to understand why Labor did not make some of these changes when they were in Government . All very obvious problems that do not take years to fix .
      Number one would have been to correct the perks of Politicians and there is a lot more scope than just scratching the surface like the LNP just did .
      Number 2 was tackling the approx. 679 large corporations that for example did not pay any tax last year. Not to forget the highly attractive tax breaks for the rich with around 50 of the richest people in Australia not paying any tax .
      Why did Labor not touch these corporations and ultra rich not paying any tax ? Maybe the two big parties have something in common .
      I also have to blame Labor a lot for the budget deficit blowout , not at all difficult to figure out with red carpet treatment for refugees and economic refugees boat people . That most of these new arrivals would become an enormous drain on welfare should not have been too hard to figure out , just like Labor has still not figured out that the Boat people and voters fear of their left faction has lost them two elections in a row .

    • 0
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      Oldman Roo, it is how our political system works, all being run by the multi national companies, oil and gas, coal and the rich who donate the money to both parties. Check out a documentary called Utopia if you want to know more about our unfair and unjust Government and who is really pulling the puppet strings.

    • 0
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      Whilst I agree with both of the above posts remember that business/big business is all powerful. Look at what they did to Mike Baird when he tried to close down the disgraceful dog racing industry. Baird now gone!
      And then there is the repeal of the Carbon tax. Guess who was running that?
      Big business controls the political game and politicians are their puppets. When pollies want to do something other than grease the palms of business they get shafted. Even Turnbull was pushed out of the leadership when he previously supported renewable energy.
      What is needed is a complete removal of business money and rich benefactors from politics. That’ll be hard but once that happens and laws are put in place to stop them getting around the (new) law it will be game over. Don’t hold your breath though as our pollies have their own snouts deep in the feeding trough and they do not have the backbones to push greedy business out.

    • 0
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      No Mick, they have not! You are wrong again. K. Rudd and J Gillard were in government for almost 6 years so you can only blame the Liberals for 14 years, NOT 16. Check your math!

    • 0
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      So the LNP only accept 2.33 times the blame for the current debacle that Labor does? 14/6 = 2.33

      OK… I see no problem with laying blame there….

  2. 0
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    Personally I would like Malcolm to look at the superannuation entitlements for MPS.. why should they be allowed to access their Super BEFORE retiring age and then go on to further work and raise more. It should not be allowed to be accessed.

    • 0
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      Absolutely Magnolia.
      They should have to wait until the same age as the Age Pension can be claimed and the taxpayer funded component should be means tested.
      To be fair the pollies do contribute to the fund and that should be recognised but even that component should not be payable until reaching pension age.

    • 0
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      Here here and why should they be entitle to any more than the average worker. In many cases they do not put in the hours that workers do, nor the length or years of service, yet they get so much more.

    • 0
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      ALL special entitlements for retiring MPs should be removed, and they should only get Pensions as any other ordinary Australians based on Income and Assets Tests at the same age as other Australians.

      All who agree should sign the e-petition – link provided by Mel in one of the comments below (Mel: Thanks, it works).

    • 0
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      You’re already getting your wish Magnolia. Those politicians elected to the Parliament for the first time after 2001 can only access their superannuation on reaching 55 years of age, the same as all other Australians. For those who were there prior to 2001, the existing rules were grandfathered.

    • 0
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      They can access their super at 55 and continue working like everyone else.

    • 0
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      Shows the need to change the rules…….

    • 0
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      Why should anyone get to access their retirement fund, aka super, before retirement age, unless there is some genuine emergency??

      a. So as to afford to those with excessive super and ongoing income the opportunity to use those resources, while still working in often excessively remunerative ‘jobs’, to further cement their personal asset base and income for generations for their family and to develop a long-term and lasting society divided by ‘haves’ on one side (who will naturally rule the roost) and ‘have-nots’ on the other (who will naturally, having no choice, behave as serfs aka slaves), which inheritances to their families they will happily pass on while extolling the virtues of forcing those who have managed to scrape together a HOME over fifty years of work having that created anew into a ‘debt’ against the government’s consolidated revenue so as to ensure that the ‘lower classes’ do not pass on wealth to their descendants and thus cause those descendants to become a challenge to the hegemony of the ‘established’ class.

      That says it in ten nutshells…..

    • 0
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      I agree, Magnolia.
      A test for the other parties – If only they would go to the next election with a policy that makes superannuation come under the same rules as the rest of us, the major parties would be in an invidious position – they would lose votes or even government if they argued against such a policy

  3. 0
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    Cutting the Gold Pass is just a token effort. When will this gutless mob further reduce their perks and cut the allowances to ex PMs? Willing to bet nothing more will happen.

    • 0
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      Yeah, too right….I’ve been just hanging out, waiting for a joint announcement from Hawke, Keating, Gillard and Rudd that they have decided to forgo their Gold Pass entitlements…..

      As Abbott still remains a duly elected, and working Member of Parliament, he doesn’t receive Gold Pass entitlements…only ‘Lil’ Johnny from the Libs receives it.

      Yeah, dead right….this gutless mob of former Labor PM’s certainly need to reduce their perks…and finally get their snouts right out of the trough.

    • 0
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      Hey Grounded, I would hope Tony Abbott never gets a PM pass. He didn’t serve two years in the job and in any case was such a crook PM he does not deserve it. Driving Sydney to Canberra is not so hard. Let him drive to work like any of us would do.
      I see no reason Hawks, Keating, Howard, Rudd, or Gillard should get free travel either, but Abbott is such an abhorrent specimen of humanity the feeling is amplified.

    • 0
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      Not so fabulous. As I understand it it’s only retired MPs’ gold passes that are axed. Retired Prime Ministers and Premiers, who get many more perks than MPs, are still eligible. That will include Abbott and Turnbull. Taxpayers duped again.

    • 0
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      While I blistered them below over paid to travel to work (another perk not very many get in the real world) – they DO have to travel for the job – so incumbents do need some way of keeping track of their expenditure on travel for WORK. A card is a good way to do that.

      What needs to be looked at carefully is the ‘piggy-backing’ of some flimsy excuse to travel onto the primary purpose of that travel – which is, in far too many cases, for personal or party business – NOT government business. I will say again – Party business is NOT government business.

      It is exactly those two areas that have caught out a few politicians lately, from Choppers Bronnie to The Surfers Apartment Queen… and it is clear that such things – in which I also include charging the taxpayer for a five minute talk to a deaf dog at the aged dog’s home followed by a four hour meet with the party faithful insiders such as Tony loved to pull – desperately need to be looked at closely AND set to rights NOW.

      We, the People, are not in the business of providing for every want or whim of our elected representatives – nor of their compadres in the contracted senior executive of the public service (you don’t get one of THOSE gigs UNLESS you are somebody’s mate, you know persuade me that Fat Hank at Centrelink is the real goods…. I dare you)…

    • 0
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      Oh – retired PMs? I see no reason why they should get a free ride for life either…. once they’re out, they’re on their own, and they’ve had a sweet enough ride to carry on without our help.

    • 0
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      Why should MPs, or anybody else, have their salary package cut retrospectively. Retrospectivity seems unfair in anything. MPs stood for election with a pre-determined salary package which included, among other things, a reasonable salary, superannuation benefits and a lifetime travel pass. All this ranting and vitriolic raving does not change the fact that those MP benefits have been in place for many years, to change them now for existing recipients seems unfair.
      How would you all feel if, for instance, the Government decided to change the assets test on homes and made it retrospective for 20 years or so, resulting in most home owning OAP having a debt to Centrelink. Apart from being political suicide, It would not be fair.
      We only have to recall what happened to dairy farmers when their co-op reduced milk prices retrospectively.
      It may not be the ex-MPs who are at fault, but the system. By all means change the system but not retrospectively. Remember, if we pay peanuts all we will get is monkeys.

    • 0
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      I thought they weren’t in it for the money and the perks, Eddy – but to serve the people of this nation. A benefit that has been shown to be falsely based should be removed retrospectively.

      How does anyone justify free flights for life to ex-politicians, for example? Hardly in the same category as any assets test (beats the drum again) – in which case a no assets test pension paid to all, and income tax taken on all income and fringe benefits above that.

      We do pay monkeys, Eddy, and all we get is peanut manure in exchange.. not even good for growing the gardens of this country.

    • 0
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      Eddy, the Government likes to cut welfare, health, environment protection, community organizations, charity etc. I think it is fair when they are looking to cut back on expenditure to start at the top. Many private organizations often have to do the same, no difference in my opinion when we cannot afford to take care of Australians then MP’s have to live a little less rich. If they are here to serve the people they should care more and stop being so greedy.

  4. 0
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    There is an urgent need to review the pay scales for Senior Public Servants. I believe the chief of Australia Post is paid over $500,000. Thats more than the PM

    • 0
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      $5.5 million 11 times more than the PM.

    • 0
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      Australia post is privatised thanks to our incompetent governments that get voted in all the time. One Nation is looking sweeter by the month.

    • 0
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      And why should tax payers foot the bill for public servants stamp duty when they buy a house in Canberra

    • 0
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      Why jackie? Has Ms Hanson promised to nationalise Australia Post which already belongs to the nation? Australia Post is NOT privatised it is owned by the Government.

      “The Government-owned business enjoyed a $36 million profit in 2015-16, yet major job cuts occurred in 2015 due to the decreases in its traditional mail service.” Quote from another article on this very site!!!

    • 0
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      tendj; this is no different to private enterprise paying moving costs for their employees particularly at senior levels and that includes the buying and selling of property if necessary not just the removal van. Such packages can also include school fees and even international flights where the employees is overseas.

    • 0
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      yes Tenj, I totally agree taxpayers should not have to fund or foot the bills of overpaid public servants to pay their private transfer costs and stamp duty etc
      What private enterprise does maybe similar in benefits paid to public employees but KSS misses the point entirely . We the taxpayers do not pay for the staff expenses in private employment or private enterprise , the company does and inturn the owners or shareholders of the company

    • 0
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      In other words, they overpay some turkey to reduce services in AustPost, and rip off some of the old posties…. one guy I used to drive to the club in the club bus had been the local postie for years, but AustPost offered him a deal he could not accept. He’s got it all in writing and it’s in the courts as we speak.

      “Privatisation’ is a failure from start to finish and ends up costing more than it was worth to do it. Like over-stocking the public service with Affirmative Actioned people, however – once they are in and are handling the reins – there is NO way short of massive surgery they can ever be removed to create Equality again.

      Once set in motion, these things self-perpetuate and only a massive collapse will bring them down to Earth.

  5. 0
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    What about that $40,000 payment to these people to help them ease back into society when they retire from parliament, how ever why not restablish the taxpayer-subsidised rail travel.

    • 0
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      Is that any different to a redundancy package given to employees Nerk? My redundancy package was in excess of that and I was by no means towards the top of the scale.

    • 0
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      Many of them – such as Turnbull – retain their business links outside while they are theoretically working for us – I see no reason to offer them some grease to slide them back into a position they never left.

      Many of them claim to have left lucrative careers to ‘serve’ the people – how then is it so hard for them to return to those well-established and lucrative careers?

      Let’s take an example – the Greek woman tossed out in the Riverina area seat was a lawyer and had fingers in a few pies already… There was NO reason whatsoever to reward her for electoral failure by giving her a lucrative and perked position on the board of the Australian Submarines Corporation. Just another job for the party faithful, and not warranted by any stretch of the imagination – not any more than this country needs a QANGO like ASC anyway.

  6. 0
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    Not sure I fully understand, does the change only affect retired politicians, because that doesn’t address the issues of late where politians have being misusing their travel perks for personal travel reasons rather than for parliamentary buisness.

    • 0
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      Took aim at that one above…. (reprise)..
      While I blistered them below over paid to travel to work (another perk not very many get in the real world) – they DO have to travel for the job – so incumbents do need some way of keeping track of their expenditure on travel for WORK. A card is a good way to do that.

      What needs to be looked at carefully is the ‘piggy-backing’ of some flimsy excuse to travel onto the primary purpose of that travel – which is, in far too many cases, for personal or party business – NOT government business. I will say again – Party business is NOT government business.

      It is exactly those two areas that have caught out a few politicians lately, from Choppers Bronnie to The Surfers Apartment Queen… and it is clear that such things – in which I also include charging the taxpayer for a five minute talk to a deaf dog at the aged dog’s home followed by a four hour meet with the party faithful insiders such as Tony loved to pull – desperately need to be looked at closely AND set to rights NOW.

      We, the People, are not in the business of providing for every want or whim of our elected representatives – nor of their compadres in the contracted senior executive of the public service (you don’t get one of THOSE gigs UNLESS you are somebody’s mate, you know persuade me that Fat Hank at Centrelink is the real goods…. I dare you)…

  7. 0
    0

    Yes, at last a positive move. It is long overdue for politicians to have pensions with value added perks. Pensions for ALL Australians should be paid on retirement from the work force at the nominal retiring age.
    Politicians pensions should be run on exactly the same rules as normal superannuation and at the same rates of contribution.
    No politician should be given any extras by the public purse

    • 0
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      Definitely especially now that a lot of politicians see entering parliament as a career decision. Mainly due to the huge benefits they can get. Once politicians entering saw it as a service to the community.

      Politicians now seem to enter purely for gain or for power if they already have heaps of money.

    • 0
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      Yes – many of those ‘lucrative careers’ they left to ‘enter service to the people’ were maybe branch secretary of the party or some flunkie for some politician or mate…. thus they have’ made their bones’ for the party and are rewarded with a remuneration and lifetime perks that runs – annually – somewhere like fifteen times the remuneration and perks of a branch secretary or flunkie. I am assuming a branch secretary pulls about $12k pa (wow) plus $80k expenses – the cost of running a single politician annually is well over $2m.

      Funny that…….

    • 0
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      Dang – that’s $120k pa (wow) … ( was pulling $100k+ in 1992 at that day’s rate – don’t sneer at me – but I was working eighteen hours a day and on call 24/7/365)….

      I doubt (my point) anyone is ‘leaving a lucrative career to enter service to the people through politics’, unless they are a Jackie Lambie or similar.

  8. 0
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    What a very small drop in the ocean that was!

  9. 0
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    Peter Slipper looks like he has taken advantage of the Gold Pass having racked up $12,620.23 on flights but he was not trying compared to Ruth Webber a one term Labor Senator from WA from 2002 – 2008 who racked up over a two year period 147 flights an average of one every 5 days at a cost of $116,662 and earned herself 200,000 frequent flyer point in the process.

  10. 0
    0

    Slimmer cat and grounded I wouldn’t get too hot under the collar re Labor MP’s and PM’s. A check of Liberal/ Conservative pollies will show they are just as bad and in most cases worse. Ie: Susan Ley, Asbestos Julie Bishop and the absolute star, helicopter Bronnie Bishop. Just settle down and accept that both sides of politics have rorted the travel system. Your bias is showing. However, I do understand how you all must be feeling when you see such an inept government doing its best to ruin this country.

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