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Tuesday, 28 October 2014
Page: 12293


Mr FLETCHER (BradfieldParliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Communications) (17:10): I thank all members for their contribution to the debate on the Parliamentary Entitlements Legislation Amendment Bill 2014. This bill gives effect to the changes announced by the government on 9 November 2013 that require amendments to the Parliamentary Entitlements Act 1990 and to the changes announced in the 2014-15 budget that require amendments to the Members of Parliament (Life Gold Pass) Act 2002.

Firstly, in relation to the changes announced in November 2013: the bill limits the domestic travel entitlement of dependent children of senior officers from those under 25 to those under 18 years of age. The bill establishes a 25 per cent penalty loading on any adjustment of a parliamentarian's claim for prescribed travel benefits, other than where the adjustment is made within 28 days of the claim or was the result of an administrative error by the Department of Finance.

In addition, the bill establishes a mechanism to minimise the risk that payments made in the course of administering the Parliamentary Entitlements Act 1990 or the Members of Parliament (Life Gold Pass) Act 2002 breach section 83 of the Constitution. This mechanism is comparable to mechanisms included in other acts, such as the Parliamentary Contributory Superannuation Act 1948. As part of this mechanism, the bill establishes a statutory right for the recovery of payments that are beyond entitlement from parliamentarians or former parliamentarians. The bill also establishes a statutory right for the recovery of the 25 per cent penalty loading.

Secondly, the bill amends the title of the Members of Parliament (Life Gold Pass) Act 2002 to the Parliamentary Retirement Travel Act 2002 to better reflect the entitlement, following the amendments contained in this bill. The bill removes eligibility from parliamentarians who did not meet the qualifying period for parliamentary retirement travel on or before 13 May 2014, other than for the spouse or de facto partner, or surviving spouse or de facto partner of a retired former Prime Minister.

The bill also removes eligibility for parliamentary retirement travel from spouses and de facto partners of retired parliamentarians, as well as sitting senators and members, who have met the qualifying period for parliamentary retirement travel. The bill requires that parliamentarians, other than former prime ministers, who met the qualifying period for parliamentary retirement travel on or before 13 May 2014 retire before 1 January 2020 in order to access the entitlement. The bill requires that all parliamentary retirement travel, including travel by the spouse or de facto partner of a retired former Prime Minister, be for the public benefit.

The bill ceases parliamentary retirement travel for former ministers, other than former prime ministers, presiding officers and leaders of the opposition—that is, senior officeholders—who left the parliament on or before 13 May 2008. The bill limits the parliamentary retirement travel entitlement of senior officeholders who left the parliament after 13 May 2008 to 10 return domestic trips per year from their retirement date to whichever is the lesser of six years or the second end of a parliament that occurs after their retirement.

The bill ceases parliamentary retirement travel for former parliamentarians, other than senior officeholders, who left the parliament on or before 13 May 2011. The bill reduces the parliamentary retirement travel entitlement of former parliamentarians, other than senior officeholders, who left the parliament after 13 May 2011 to five return domestic trips per year for three years from their retirement or the next end of a parliament that occurs after their retirement, whichever is the lesser. The bill removes the current restriction on a prime minister who enters or re-enters parliament on or after 6 March 2012 becoming eligible for parliamentary retirement travel. The bill reduces the parliamentary retirement travel entitlement of a retired former prime minister to 30 return domestic trips per year. The bill also reduces the entitlement of a spouse or de facto partner of a retired former prime minister who qualified for parliamentary retirement to 20 return domestic trips per year.

These are sensible reforms to improve accountability in the spending of taxpayers' money, which will strengthen the parliamentary entitlements system. I commend the bill to the House.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.