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Monday, 27 February 2012
Page: 865

Senator FEENEY (VictoriaParliamentary Secretary for Defence) (19:41): I thank senators for their contributions to this debate on the Members of Parliament (Life Gold Pass) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2012. This bill is a further demonstration of the government's commitment to reform the parliamentary entitlements framework. In 2009 the government commissioned an independent committee chaired by Ms Barbara Belcher AO to review parliamentary entitlements. On 24 March 2011, the Special Minister of State tabled the committee's report and introduced the Remuneration and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2011, which restored the power of the independent Remuneration Tribunal to determine the parliamentary base salary of parliamen­tarians. On that day the Special Minister of State also agreed to the tribunal's request that it consider the other recommendations of the committee's report and to make recom­mendations on parliamentarians' tools of trade and other entitlements issues.

The tribunal released its initial report into the review of the remuneration of members of parliament on 15 December 2011 and the government has moved immediately to accept key recommendations of this report, including that the Life Gold Pass scheme be closed prospectively; that the travel entitlement of Life Gold Pass holders be reduced; and that the link between additional pensions under the Parliamentary Contri­butory Superannuation Scheme, the 1948 scheme, and additional salaries for serving parliamentary office holders and ministers be severed. This bill implements those recommendations of the independent tribunal.

Once this bill takes effect, the Life Gold Pass scheme will be closed to those who enter or re-enter the parliament. The travel entitlement of existing Life Gold Pass holders who have never held office as Prime Minister and their spouses or de facto partners will be reduced from 25 to 10 domestic return trips per financial year from the 2012-13 financial year. Sitting senators and members will remain eligible to accrue an entitlement to a Life Gold Pass where they serve the remainder of their relevant qualifying period prior to leaving the parliament. Further, a sitting senator or member who ceases to be a member of their house and who becomes a member of the other chamber within three months will be regarded as having had continuous service in the parliament and will continue to be eligible for a Life Gold Pass. In accordance with the tribunal's recommendation that the travel entitlement of Life Gold Pass holders be reduced immediately, the bill introduces a transitional provision which limits the number of domestic return trips for the remainder of 2011-12 to a maximum of two. This provision will apply from the later of the day on which the bill receives the royal assent or 1 April 2012.

As senators may be aware, serving ministers of state and parliamentary office holders receive additional salaries as a percentage of parliamentary base salary. Any increase in the parliamentary base salary determined by the tribunal would then flow to the additional salaries of ministers of state and parliamentary office holders. The measures in this bill will allow the Remuneration Tribunal to limit any windfall gains from increases in the additional salaries of office holders and ministers of state flowing to the superannuation benefits for current and former parliamentarians. These measures complement similar arrangements approved by the parliament last year, in the Remuneration and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2011, in relation to increases in the parliamentary base salary for members of parliament.

The reforms to the parliamentary entitlements framework set out in this bill will contribute to an effective, efficient and transparent system of remuneration and entitlements, and will help to build the Australian public's confidence in the parliamentary entitlements system. I commend the bill to the Senate.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.