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Parliamentary entitlements.



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Parliamentary Entitlements

I indicated in August that the government was examining various aspects of the administration of parliamentary entitlements and associated matters. The government has now decided to make a number of changes.

Firstly, expenditures by former Governors-General, former Prime Ministers, other Life Gold Pass Holders, severance travel beneficiaries and widows of certain eligible former parliamentarians arising from benefits granted to them in recognition of public service, will be publicly disclosed.

This has not previously been done. It will now be done on a six monthly basis as a separate statement tabled in conjunction with the standard statement of parliamentarians’ expenditures. It will contain the same level of detail, in the relevant category, as for parliamentarians.

Secondly, with respect to former Prime Ministers, the government does not believe that the current situation where all former Prime Ministers have unlimited access to domestic travel is consistent with community standards.

The Remuneration Tribunal introduced a cap of 25 trips a year in 1994 but because at that time all former Prime Ministers had already qualified as had the then Prime Minister the change did not affect any of them. The changes announced today will therefore cover all future former Prime Ministers.

The government will introduce legislation to provide that all former Prime Ministers be limited to 40 publicly funded domestic trips a year. This figure reflects a legitimate level of travel consistent with the many civic and community events former Prime Ministers are expected to attend. Legislation is required because existing entitlements will be reduced under these new arrangements.

Thirdly, benefits to all other Life Gold Pass Holders (and certain spouses who qualified under previous arrangements) will be limited to 25 domestic trips per year.

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PRIME MINISTER

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While this also represents a reduction in benefits for some existing Life Gold Pass Holders and some spouses (who had qualified prior to 1994) the government believes that the previous unlimited entitlements do not meet community standards.

Fourthly, after a careful review of services and facilities provided to existing parliamentarians the government has decided to place a cap of $125,000 per annum on Members’ of the House of Representatives printing entitlements.

This cap will apply from 1 January 2002 with a pro rata entitlement from that date until 1 July 2002. Given that these new arrangements are being entered into three months in to this financial year the government does not believe it appropriate to backdate it to 1 July 2001. Senators’ printing entitlement remain the same.

After careful consideration the government does not intend to make any change to services and facilities such as the provision of flags to schools and community groups, photographic services (largely used in conjunction with school and community visits to Parliament House), or the existing communications allowance, on the basis that these meet a genuine need.

The government also believes that current arrangements for the provision of electorate offices, staff and equipment are appropriate given the community’s expectation of adequate service from their elected representatives.

Finally the government notes that in his recent extensive audit of parliamentarians’ entitlements the Auditor-General found no malfeasance. Some minor administrative issues were identified, a number of which were already being dealt with by the Department of Finance and Administration.

During its time in office the government has progressively made a number of improvements to the transparency and efficiency of the parliamentary entitlements system. (List attached)

The government will continue to monitor the system.

27 September 2001

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IMPROVEMENTS IN ACCOUNTABILITY AND ADMINISTRATIVE ARRANGEMENTS SINCE 1996

• Frequent Flyer Points - the Government introduced the

policy that Frequent Flyer Points should only be used to offset the cost of travel which would otherwise be at office expense ie to reduce the cost to the taxpayer).

• Tabling of the Costs of Travel - each 6 months covering travelling allowance payments, commercial fares, car travel and charter travel and cost of self drive vehicles.

• Reconciliation of travelling allowance claims with evidence of travel before meeting payments.

• Higher rates of travelling allowance only payable when Senators and Members stay in commercial accommodation.

• The imposition of a 60 day limit on the submission of travelling allowance claims.

• The issuance of and monitoring of Telecard accounts has been significantly improved and these costs are now reported separately in Monthly Management Reports.

• Senators and members who undertake overseas study travel at government expense are required to submit a report on return.

• The charter transport entitlement has been clarified and toughened.

• Arrangements for Parliamentary Secretaries have been changed to establish a more satisfactory constitutional basis for the entitlements.