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Labor Party Caucus proposes a redundancy package and chauffeur allowance for Federal politicians

MICHAEL CAVANAGH: Our Federal politicians have long argued that in private sectors, they'd earn a bundle. But new moves under way in the Labor Party Caucus for a redundancy deal and chauffeur allowance for Federal politicians would mean a pretty healthy bottom line. The Labor Caucus is preparing a submission to go to the Remuneration Tribunal for a redundancy deal for politicians and a proposal for a chauffeur allowance. Jim Snow, the Federal Member for Eden-Monaro, is chair of the Caucus, and he's about to head off to Cooma without a chauffeur, and good morning to Jim Snow.

JIM SNOW: Good morning, Michael.

MICHAEL CAVANAGH: Well, this one might be a bit hard to sell, wouldn't it? Why do politicians need a severance package?

JIM SNOW: Well, only those who don't get the present superannuation package. We're thinking of people who've not served three terms. They can serve one term. They've disrupted their career and they don't get anything; whereas a public servant would get two weeks per year, probably, or someone who's worked for Telecom, or someone who's worked for BHP. They'd be able to get a redundancy payment, and we think that those who've interrupted their careers should be entitled to a similar entitlement.

MICHAEL CAVANAGH: But didn't they interrupt their careers knowing full well what could happen to them?

JIM SNOW: Oh yes. Yes, I understand that completely. Nevertheless, it's still something which, really, it's a disparity between Members' entitlements and those who go into other jobs. And generally, if you go into another job, you've got a bit more security of employment.

MICHAEL CAVANAGH: But there's always this line that they've got a wealth of talent that they could sell. Surely, the private sector would be falling over themselves to employ a former politician?

JIM SNOW: Well, no, I don't think so. I mean, we're representative of people through Australia, the average pub .. person in the pub, or church congregation put together, or the small business person. I came from a small business. And we've got similar .. you know, we've developed a career of some type, generally, where you have a job and if you .. it doesn't matter what you're at, pretty well everything you get a redundancy package of some sort when you've been in for a few years. Now, if you're not entitled to superannuation, then I think that you are entitled to consideration for a small redundancy package. It might be six weeks for three years service; that's all.

MICHAEL CAVANAGH: And how would you overcome the problem of those former Members being picked up as consultants by either another Minister or member of Government?

JIM SNOW: Well, there are certainly provisions available there, especially if they're picked up by any government employment in relation to super at the moment that they don't get an entitlement, and maybe there could be an entitlement, if that's the case, if they're picked up immediately. But I think for those who aren't picked up in that way and they're not affected by similar provisions that would occur with superannuation, where they're not entitled to get the super, then the redundancy package ought to apply.

MICHAEL CAVANAGH: So how would you work the chauffeur allowance? You just said then possibly six weeks pro rata for, say, 12 months or three years in Parliament. How would you work the chauffeur one?

JIM SNOW: The chauffeur is really the .. it's really only probably a taxi driver. If you're travelling within your electorate when you are a Member now, then you should be able to spend money to get a driver. At the moment you can't, unless you've got an electorate of a certain size. I can get one because I've got an electorate of 30,000. So, I wouldn't be entitled to this.

MICHAEL CAVANAGH: Have you ever hailed a taxi in the main street of Cooma to bring you back to Queanbeyan?

JIM SNOW: Pardon? Well, I can't at the moment unless I just pay for it myself, or take it out of that charter allowance. But with this provision, people who have got smaller electorates but still fairly big, then they'd be entitled to call a taxi. It might be very late at night. And we had a Member who had an accident recently because the Member went to sleep. We've had another Member who had another accident in .. well, we've had two lose their spouses who were driving late at night. So what we're saying is that this .. there's no provision at the moment for people to be able to get an expenditure to drive .. to get a driver. I know a lot of people think we do have drivers, but we don't. Only in Canberra do you get a driver from the airport to Parliament House or from your motel or somewhere, wherever you're staying.

MICHAEL CAVANAGH: This is going to be pretty hard to sell to the electorate, isn't it?

JIM SNOW: I don't know that it is. Two thousand dollars isn't very much for a year, and when you think that the cost of an election, for instance, if a Member loses a life, and to me it's an entitlement. I wouldn't be entitled to it, but I can see Members who don't get a charter allowance because they haven't got big electorates, very big electorates, ought to be entitled to it.

MICHAEL CAVANAGH: Have you bounced this off the Opposition? - because I'd be highly surprised if they didn't come half-way to the party on this one.

JIM SNOW: Yes, I've talked to Opposition Members and they've had no opposition to this proposal. They can see merit in it; in fact, they've lost as many....

MICHAEL CAVANAGH: Some, including me, are not surprised by that, actually.

JIM SNOW: No, no, well, I understand that. I mean, people get cynical about us, but I'm the same bloke that had a pharmacy there in Campbell that people used to come in and talk to, and I was then on the top of the ladder as far as esteem goes. Now, I've got this job, I'm at the bottom of the ladder, but I'm still the same bloke, you know, who was serving those customers in Queanbeyan, working for chemists there in Campbell. So, I think that people accept that, that really .. they usually respect their local Member, even if they don't respect us all as a total.

MICHAEL CAVANAGH: Jim Snow, thanks very much for your time.