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Thursday, 14 May 2009
Page: 2799

Senator FIELDING (Leader of the Family First Party) (9:48 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—

Parliamentary Superannuation Amendment (Removal of Excessive Super) Bill 2009

Family First is today introducing the Parliamentary Superannuation Amendment (Removal of Excessive Super) Bill 2009 as an important step in shutting down excessive superannuation payments for federal politicians.

The successful passage of this Bill will remove the golden handshake that many federal politicians currently receive on retirement.

With the onset of the global financial crisis, Australians are witnessing some of the most turbulent economic times in recent decades. Thousands of Australians are being made unemployed, retirement savings are tumbling and businesses are facing an increasingly bleak outlook.

This has led to a growing outrage at the excessive salaries and golden handshakes which are being paid to corporate executives, whilst the rest of Australia is left reeling. Indeed, there is good reason for this outrage.

Only recently, we witnessed 1850 Pacific Brands workers sacked from their jobs, whilst chief executive, Sue Morphet, was awarded a $1.2 million wage increase. Last year saw former Consolidated Media chief, John Alexander, receive a $15m golden parachute worth 468 percent of his base salary, while Oz Minerals chief Owen Hegarty enjoyed a retirement payment of $8.35 million, 642 percent of his base salary. These stratospheric figures seem almost surreal.

However, it is not only in the private sphere that such obscene payments exist. More than 120 politicians, including the Prime Minister and his Treasurer, are in line to receive a golden handshake upon their retirement. Only last week, it was reported that about a further 700 Australians are expected to lose their jobs in the Department of Immigration while their boss, Minister for Immigration Chris Evans, sits comfortably in the knowledge that he is one day entitled to a massive superannuation payout.

In 2004, the Howard Government finally put an end to the outrageous superannuation payments to new federal politicians, bringing them into line with more acceptable standards. This was an action too long in coming and one that did not go far enough.

Because politicians elected before 2004 continue to remain eligible for excessive superannuation payouts on their retirement.

There are 120 politicians in this place from both sides of the political fence who secretly rub their hands with glee knowing they got in before the cut-off point.

They sneakily kept the rort going so they wouldn’t miss out on their big golden handshake.

Family First believes we should abolish this two-tiered scheme completely. No politician in this place should get a truckload of cash at the end of their service.

To serve the Australian public as their elected representative is privilege enough. And when so many Australians are doing it tough—really struggling to keep the basics together—for politicians to be protecting their own interests in this manner is contemptible.

Australians are tightening their belts and its time politicians did the same. The Government must surely lead by example. Just as the Government is now looking to tighten those payments for fat cats who make their termination payments on the backs of hard-working Australians, so too must the same standards apply to politicians.

It is hypocritical for the Rudd Government to expect Australians to accept enormous government cuts in spending on vital services whilst they themselves remain immune to this pain. The first cuts in spending should be in pollies’ super.

The next time the Government asserts that it is unable to adequately fund important community projects, they ought to look in their own backyard for this money.

This Bill will send a powerful message to Australians that their elected representatives are not feathering their own nest. I know that myself and many of my colleagues here are genuinely passionate about the financial security and welfare of Australians. This Bill offers those politicians who believe in a fair go for all and who genuinely want to improve the lives of their fellow Australians the opportunity to demonstrate this through their actions and not just through their words.

I commend the Bill to the Senate.

Senator FIELDING —I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.