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Thursday, 16 February 2017
Page: 1168

Senator HANSON (Queensland) (13:26): I support this bill in principle but I do not feel it goes far enough. I make mention of the amendments I will be putting up to the bill. Just this week and also prior to this I have spoken to people on my Facebook page. The question I asked them was: how would you describe politicians' lurks and perks? Grant Mac said, 'Snouts in the trough.' Carol Smith said, 'Greedy. Not necessary. Over the top. Ridiculous. Disgusting.' Bryan Kearney said, 'Antiquated.' Ryan McDonald said, 'Taxpayer theft.' Drew Woods said, 'Despicable.' Barry Odorici said, 'Grubs.' Janette Howard said, 'Outrageous.' Deborah Fenwick said, 'Disgraceful.' Steve Kelly said, 'Parasites on our society. The age of entitlement is over for our politicians.' Charlie Mike said, 'Highly fraudulent.' Leanne Irving said, 'Criminal. Unworthy. Leeches. Greedy. Parasites.' This is how the general public feel about politicians and their lurks and perks. I really felt sorry to get this response back from the people we are here to represent, but that is the general feeling. I hear it day in and day out.

I remember Joe Hockey standing up in this parliament and saying, 'The age of entitlement is over.' It is. We are not the wealthy country we once were, and yet we are still asking the public to pull their belts in. That is evident in the omnibus bill that the government wants to pass in this parliament. We are at a stage where we are reaching $500 billion in debt because of excessive government spending, mismanagement of moneys and the ever-increasing welfare payments that we have, trying to provide for people who are struggling, increasing costs to families, pensioners, refugees and whatever is happening to health care. There is an ever-increasing cost. So, yes, the age of entitlements is over.

I have always said that we as leaders of this nation must set an example. I understand Senator Macdonald saying it should not be retrospective. But then again I will say that the legislation the government are putting forward in the parliament is actually retrospective because they are asking the people who are receiving a helping hand from the taxpayer to take cuts or to change their entitlements. Why should former members of this house be treated any differently? I think everyone should be treated the same, equally. That has always been my call. We should set an example.

I feel strongly about this because I went to a cabinet meeting before being elected and I had two women from Meals on Wheels come up to me and say: 'We desperately need funding. We cannot service the disabled or pensioners with meals on a daily basis.' They are an organisation run by volunteers who put long hours of work into it. In Queensland they receive $2.80 per meal from the government. That is what they are given to fund it. They are crying out. They serve about 37,000 meals a day throughout Australia—on average, 10 million a year. Just last night and last week I went to Ovarian Cancer Australia. Here we have an organisation that is a charity trying to help women who are dying from ovarian cancer—1,200 a year.

These are only two of the charities. The Burrumbuttock Hay Run, which I have been on twice in the last two years and I will be going on again next week, is a charity organisation run by man by the name of Brendan Farrell, who gets other truckies who give their time and hay supplied to deliver to farmers in North Queensland who are desperate because of the drought and because their stock are dying. They get no assistance from the government whatever: it is all charity.

These are only a few organisations that I mention here, but I am sure that there are thousands of others who are looking for assistance. I think that pulling back on some expenses wherever we can to save money and putting it where it is really needed would be the path that I would encourage my fellow senators and members of this place to pursue.

As a case in point showing why the public are so angry about this, consider Tony Burke:

Tony Burke: Taxpayers slugged $2.2 million for travel costs including charter flights on VIP jets

Labor frontbencher Tony Burke has slugged taxpayers close to $2.2 million for travel costs, including charter planes and flying on VIP jets. On top of $2.4 million in office and phone expenses, this makes him the parliament’s $4.6 million dollar man … Mr Burke was forced to pay back a $94 Comcar fare, which he had used to take him to a Robbie Williams concert, and admitted he flew his family business class to Uluru during the 2012 school holidays, under the family entitlements scheme.

Then you go to retired Labor senator John Hogg, a low-profile politician who would hardly be recognised in Sydney. He racked up almost $1.4 million in overseas junkets before leaving parliament. Retiring WA Senator Mark Bishop and retiring Queensland Senator Brett Mason claimed almost $500,000 combined for overseas jaunts dating back to late 2008. Former Father of the House, former Sydney MP Philip Ruddock, is another frequent flyer, making 12 overseas expense claims in seven years.

That is what the public are angry about, and I do not blame them. This is where I agree with Senator Macdonald about the former prime ministers. For the last 20 years I have been calling for former prime ministers to no longer be on taxpayer-funded services. Gough Whitlam was on it for 39 years—a man who was in office for three years, then thrown out overwhelmingly by the public; yet he was on taxpayer-funded services for 39 years. Malcolm Fraser—40 years. Bob Hawke—still on it after 26 years. Paul Keating—21 years. John Howard—10 years. Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd—four years—two prime ministers who put this country in so much debt and are still a cost to the taxpayer.

The amendment that I will be moving is that the Commonwealth—in other words, the taxpayer—must not provide any benefits under any administrative scheme to a person because the person is a retired former prime minister. At present, the entitlements given to a former PM are at the present prime minister's discretion. I believe that is a gross conflict of interest.

I want to explain why I am calling for this. I have an office in Brisbane CPO, and near my office is the office of Kevin Rudd. I have never seen him there once. I have seen a couple of his staffers, but have I seen Kevin Rudd? No. That office must be an extreme expense to the taxpayer. I think he spends most of the time overseas. Let me inform the public of what we, the taxpayers—I am a taxpayer as well, so that is why I include myself—are paying. We will go to Julia Gillard. Domestic scheduled fares are $7,872.03; car costs nearly $7,000; office facilities $50,530. Go to the Hon. Robert Hawke: domestic air travel $9,543.85; car costs $9,216; office facilities $62,140. We are still paying the cost of those office facilities for a gentleman who is in his 80s. Or we go to the Hon. John Howard: domestic air travel $14,378; car costs just over $13,000; office facilities $112,434.42. Then go to the Hon. Paul Keating. His domestic fares were $1,491; car costs $9,059; office facilities $62,979. As for Kevin Rudd, his office facilities were $63,210; car costs $9,658; and domestic scheduled fares $2,274. To me, these people lost their jobs. The public do not get paid their services when they lose their jobs or when they retire. Most of these members in this House have not retired; they have actually been thrown out by the people because the people did not want them in this place any longer. And, yet, we still support them and pay for their fares. Like I said, the age of entitlement is over.

With some of the ones here for the Life Gold Pass holders, I will mention a couple. Fran Bailey: over $6,000. Simon Crean: $9,827—this is all for domestic fares. David Hawker: over $4,000. Michael Ronaldson: over $7,000. Peter Slipper, the former member of the lower house who was also Speaker: $12,620. These are costs that the people are fed up with.

I will be moving an amendment to this bill that former prime ministers are not paid. I do not believe it should be from this day on. I do believe it should be retrospective—that those should be cut off immediately. I would like to see that money put to better use. There are people here who, as I said, are struggling. Charities need it; organisations need it; our health system needs it; our schools need it; our disabled need it. There are more people that require this—especially when we have these people that can do speaking engagements and get thousands of dollars for it. And not only the former members—their spouses and partners are also entitled to this. It is not good enough. It is definitely not good enough. It has to change.

I call on the members to support my amendment with regards to the former prime ministers and to have consideration for the taxpayers of this nation.