AUSTRALIA POLITICS: Life Gold Pass: Malcolm Turnbull Axes Entitlement Scheme
The Federal Government will abolish the lifetime gold-pass travel perks for politicians immediately, in a bid to restore public confidence and save close to $5 million.
Special Minster of State Scott Ryan said the Government would also introduce legislation to create a new compliance body to oversee expenses later this week.
“Australians are entitled to expect parliamentarians spend taxpayers’ money efficiently, effectively and ethically,” he said.
The scheme provided former MPs and senators with 10 free return airfares within Australia each year.
Those elected since 2012 do not qualify for the scheme.
The Government had previewed changes to the scheme in the May budget, although the plan was to phase out the entitlement rather than axe it immediately.
“It was better to simply move swiftly if we’re abolishing the life gold pass,” Senator Ryan said.
The announcement comes after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull promised an overhaul of parliamentary entitlements and donations following the resignation of former health minister Sussan Ley.
Senator Ryan said the oversight body could be operational by mid-year, provided the legislation was supported by Labor and the crossbench.
The ABC understands Liberal MP Warren Entsch and another Coalition figure questioned the change during a party room meeting on Tuesday morning.
Mr Entsch’s main criticism was that the changes were retrospective and unfair to politicians who had served for a long time, and expected they would be able to continue claiming expenses.
Senator Ryan would not detail the party room discussion but said he had received “nothing but strong support from his colleagues”.
“The introduction of this bill continues the Coalition’s progress towards the most extensive reforms to parliamentary work expenses in more than two decades,” he said.
Senator Ryan said there was broad support for the reforms from all sides of politics.
The gold-pass scheme was first introduced in 1918 and originally provided unlimited domestic travel to former MPs.
Since 2002, the size of the scheme has been gradually reduced, which sparked a court case involving four former politicians.
Barry Cunningham, Tony Lamb, John Moore and Barry Cohen lost a High Court challenge to the reductions in the scheme late last year.