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Life Gold Pass
Life Gold Pass
Posted 12/08/2015 by Cathy Madden
It has been reported that former federal Members of Parliament have lodged a challenge in
the High Court to recent legislative changes that reduced their entitlement to the ‘Life Gold
Pass’ post-retirement travel benefit and reduced their benefits under the Parliamentary
Contributory Superannuation Scheme. The entitlement of parliamentarians to the ‘Life Gold
Pass’ (LGP) has been in operation since 1918. The LGP and severance travel are post-retirement travel benefits currently available to parliamentarians. Retirement travel is
governed by Acts of Parliament, determinations of the Remuneration Tribunal, procedural
rules, and decisions of the Executive.
In 2002 the LGP entitlement was codified as the Members of Parliament (Life Gold Pass) Act
2002 which set out the entitlements for retired parliamentarians who satisfied the qualifying
periods determined by the Remuneration Tribunal. The Remuneration Tribunal determines
only the qualifying period for the LGP. The codified LGP entitled eligible former
parliamentarians to travel within Australia at government expense for their lifetime (but not
to overseas travel), with caps placed on the number of flights per year—25 for eligible
former members and 40 for prime ministers. The entitlement included certain benefits for
the spouse or de facto partner of a former eligible member or prime minister.
The 2010 Committee for the Review Parliamentary Entitlements (Belcher review) report and
the Remuneration Tribunal’s 2011 initial report into work assessment of the remuneration
of members of parliament both recommended reducing the benefit and closing the scheme
prospectively to new members.
In 2012, the then Labor government legislated to implement these recommendations. The
Members of Parliament (Life Gold Pass) and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2012 closed
the scheme off to new members effective from 6 March 2012 and reduced the number of
domestic return trips, from 25 to 10, that eligible members and their spouse or de facto
partner were entitled to undertake.
The Association of Former Members of the Parliament of Australia (AFMPA) raised a number
of concerns in their submission to a Senate Finance and Public Administration Legislation
Committee (SFPALC) inquiry into the 2012 legislation, concluding that a 'reduction in
existing benefits is unjustified'. Following enactment of the Members of Parliament (Life
Gold Pass) and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2012 the AFMPA raised the possibility of
seeking legal compensation for the loss of the entitlement.
More recently, as part of the 2014-15 Budget, the Abbott Coalition Government announced
that, for those who had qualified, the LGP entitlements would be wound back for former and
current members of parliament. As part of these reforms, spouses or de facto partners
would no longer be eligible for travel, and limits would be placed on eligibility and the class
and number of trips per annum. The 2014-15 Budget indicates the Government expects
savings of $1.1 million in 2014-15 and $1.2 million in 2015-16 from reductions to post
On 2 October 2014 the Government introduced the Parliamentary Legislation Amendment
Bill 2014, which would result in the benefit being wound back for current eligible former
members, and ultimately closed off to all eligible members except for former prime
ministers by 2026. The entitlement for former prime ministers would be reduced from 40 to
30 return domestic trips per year. The Bill includes a timeline for limitations and reductions
to parliamentary retirement travel for eligible MPs based on retirement date and position
(such as minister or senior office holder) held while in Parliament. The legislation would
abolish any entitlement by spouses or de facto partners of eligible former MPs and eligible
current serving members to access retirement travel benefits (except for the spouse or de
facto partner of a former prime minister). It would also require that all retirement travel
must be for the public benefit. In addition it changes the title of the entitlement to the
Parliamentary Retirement Travel Entitlement. A number of the legislative changes relating to
the LGP have a retrospective commencement date of 14 May 2014.
The AFMPA, in a submission to the SFPALC inquiry into the Bill, has raised the issues of the
retrospective impact of the legislation, the exclusion of spouses or de facto partners, and
the unjust acquisition of property as some of the reasons they were contemplating a High
The Department of Finance (Finance), in its submission to SFPALC, noted that it considers
the Bill would not result in an acquisition of property under subsection 51(xxxi) of the
Australian Constitution. However, Finance also considers that, if compensation was granted
by a court, the amount would not exceed the savings from the measure.
Finance publishes information on its website relating to payments to eligible former MPs
and their spouses or de facto partners under the current post retirement travel entitlement.
It would appear from the reporting that Finance has acted to stop the entitlement from 13
May 2014 for a large number of eligible former MPs pending the passage of the legislation.