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Thursday, 9 February 2017
Page: 467

Mr FRYDENBERG (KooyongMinister for the Environment and Energy) (10:04): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I am pleased to introduce the Parliamentary Entitlements Legislation Amendment Bill 2017, a bill which largely mirrors the provisions of the 2014 bill of the same name, to implement the changes to the Parliamentary Entitlements and Life Gold Pass Acts.

On 9 November 2013, the government announced changes to strengthen the rules governing parliamentarians' business expenses. On 13 May 2014, the government also announced, as part of the 2014-15 budget, changes to Life Gold Pass travel.

On top of the changes outlined in 2014, this bill significantly accelerates the termination of access to travel under the Life Gold Pass scheme for the vast majority of pass holders, including former ministers, presiding officers and the leaders of the opposition.

The bill ceases Life Gold Pass travel on the day it commences for all current pass holders, other than retired former prime ministers and their spouses and renames the remaining benefit parliamentary retirement travel.

Specifically, the bill:

removes parliamentary retirement travel from spouses and de facto partners of all former parliamentarians, other than those of retired former prime ministers, with effect from 14 May 2014;

reduces the amount of parliamentary retirement travel available to former prime ministers, their spouses or de facto partners, effective 14 May 2014;

requires that parliamentary retirement travel undertaken after 14 May 2014 be for the public benefit, and not for a commercial purpose or a private purpose; and

ceases parliamentary retirement travel for former parliamentarians, other than former prime ministers, at the latest with effect from commencement of the bill.

Further, the bill:

Amends the definition of dependent child, for domestic travel purposes, of a minister, presiding officer or opposition office holder from under 25, to under 18 years of age.

Imposes a 25 per cent penalty loading on any claim for a prescribed travel benefit that a parliamentarian subsequently adjusts (either voluntary or involuntary).

The 25 per cent penalty loading will not apply where an adjustment is made within 28 days of the date the claim was made, or where the adjustment was the result of an administrative error by the administering department.

Establishes a mechanism to minimise the risk that payments made in the course of administering parliamentary work expenses will breach section 83 of the Constitution. The mechanism is comparable to mechanisms included in other acts, such as the Parliamentary Contributory Superannuation Act 1948. The mechanism will include a statutory right for the recovery of payments that are beyond entitlement, as well as the 25 per cent penalty loading, where applicable.

The bill contains sensible reforms to improve accountability in the spending of taxpayers' money, which strengthen the parliamentary work expenses framework.

I foreshadow that this government will soon bring forward further legislation as it implements the Prime Minister's recently announced reforms to the management of parliamentarians' work expenses, and recommendations of the review committee: An independent parliamentary entitlements system.

Debate adjourned.