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Monday, 27 February 2012
Page: 863

Senator RHIANNON (New South Wales) (19:31): The Greens have long opposed the Life Gold Pass. In July 2009, Senator Bob Brown called for the Life Gold Pass to be reviewed by an independent arbiter. The bill abolishes the Life Gold Pass entitlement prospectively so that it is not available to those who enter the parliament at or after the commencement of the bill. The bill also severs the link between the additional pensions paid under the 1948 superannuation scheme and additional salaries paid to office holders and ministers.

The Life Gold Pass scheme, which in 2010 to 2011 cost taxpayers—cost the public, therefore—$1.3 million, will be closed for new members, and the entitlement of existing members will be reduced from 25 to 10 business class flights a year. While we commend the closure of the scheme, it should be noted that the reason for the rush to pass this bill is to facilitate the Remuneration Tribunal in gifting parliamentarians a pay rise. It has been made clear by the Remuneration Tribunal and the minister that this rise in base salaries from $140,910 to $185,000 per year is contingent on the passage of this bill. The reason for the government and opposition support for the hurried debate of the bill is certainly clear.

The Greens do not support the corres­ponding restoration of the Remuneration Tribunal's power to determine parliamentary base salaries without the power of parliament to disallow the determinations. Surely that should be in place. Transparency and accountability demand that the parliament maintain oversight over such matters. The major parties removed the embarrassment of accepting the pay offer and shed respon­sibility for a pay grab. They are some of the comments that were made when this announcement was made. It is the responsibility of each parliamentarian to justify to the electorate, to the taxpayers, to the public, the remuneration for MPs. Politicians' salaries should be compared with those of ordinary Australians like police, nurses and teachers, not corporate executives who earn millions of dollars. We support the bill but it is important that we note what is behind it.