House debates

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Bills

Parliamentary Entitlements Legislation Amendment Bill 2014; Second Reading

9:09 am

Photo of Kevin AndrewsKevin Andrews (Menzies, Liberal Party, Minister for Social Services) Share this | Hansard source

I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

On 9 November 2013, the government announced changes to the parliamentary entitlements framework to strengthen the rules governing parliamentarians' business expenses. On 13 May 2014, the government announced, as part of the 2014-15 budget, changes to the Life Gold Pass travel entitlement. The Parliamentary Entitlements Legislation Amendment Bill 2014 gives effect to the changes announced by the government on 9 November 2013 that require amendments to the Parliamentary Entitlements Act 1990 and to the changes announced in the 2014-15 budget that require amendments to the Members of Parliament (Life Gold Pass) Act 2002.

Firstly, in relation to changes to the parliamentary entitlements framework announced on 9 November 2013, the bill limits the domestic travel entitlement of dependent children of senior officers from those under 25 years of age, to those under 18 years of age, by amending the definition of 'dependent child'.

The bill establishes a 25 per cent penalty loading on any adjustment (either voluntary or involuntary) of a parliamentarian's claim for prescribed travel benefits. The provisions of the bill provide that the 25 per cent penalty loading on any adjustment will not be applied where the adjustment was made within 28 days after the claim was made; or where an adjustment was the result of an administrative error by the Department of Finance. For the purposes of the 25 per cent penalty loading on adjustments, the bill includes a provision for the Special Minister of State to determine, by legislative instrument, the prescribed travel benefits that are subject to a 25 per cent penalty loading.

In addition to the bill giving effect to these announced changes, it establishes a mechanism to minimise the risk that payments made in the course of administering the Parliamentary Entitlements Act 1990 or the Members of Parliament (Life Gold Pass) Act 2002 breach section 83 of the Constitution. The mechanism is comparable to mechanisms included in other acts, such as the Parliamentary Contributory Superannuation Act 1948.

As part of this mechanism, the bill establishes a statutory right for the Commonwealth to recover from a parliamentarian or former parliamentarian an amount equivalent to a payment made to, or on behalf of, a parliamentarian or former parliamentarian that is beyond entitlement under the Parliamentary Entitlements Act 1990. The bill also establishes a statutory right for the Commonwealth to recover from a parliamentarian the 25 per cent penalty loading.

Secondly, the bill amends the title of the Members of Parliament (Life Gold Pass) Act 2002 to the Parliamentary Retirement Travel Act 2002 to better reflect the entitlement following amendments in this bill.

In relation to the changes to the parliamentary retirement travel entitlement announced as part of the 2014-15 budget, the bill removes, ceases, limits and reduces travel entitlements under the Parliamentary Retirement Travel Act 2002 as well as places requirements on travel under the parliamentary retirement travel entitlement.

The bill removes the entitlement to parliamentary retirement travel for all current parliamentarians who did not meet the qualifying period for parliamentary retirement travel on or before 13 May 2014. The bill also removes the parliamentary retirement travel entitlement for the spouse or de facto partner, or surviving spouse or de facto partner, of a parliamentary retirement travel entitlement holder, or of a sitting member who has satisfied the qualifying period for parliamentary retirement travel, other than the spouse or de facto partner, or surviving spouse or de facto partner, of a former Prime Minister who has retired from the parliament.

The bill requires that parliamentarians who met the qualifying period for the parliamentary retirement travel entitlement on or before 13 May 2014 retire before 1 January 2020 in order to be entitled to access parliamentary retirement travel. This requirement does not apply to the Prime Minister or former prime ministers.

The bill requires that all parliamentary retirement travel, including travel by the spouse or de facto partner of a retired former Prime Minister, be for the public benefit.

The bill ceases the parliamentary retirement travel entitlement of former parliamentarians who qualified for parliamentary retirement travel when they left the parliament on or before 13 May 2011. The bill limits the parliamentary retirement travel entitlement of former parliamentarians who qualified for parliamentary retirement travel when they left the parliament after 13 May 2011 to five return domestic trips per year, from the date of their retirement for the lesser of three years or the next end of a parliament that occurs after their retirement.

The bill ceases the parliamentary retirement travel entitlement of former ministers (other than former prime ministers), presiding officers and leaders of the opposition who qualified for parliamentary retirement travel when they left parliament on or before 13 May 2008. The bill also limits the parliamentary retirement travel entitlement of former ministers, presiding officers or a Leader of the Opposition who qualified for parliamentary retirement travel when they left the parliament after 13 May 2008 to 10 return domestic trips per year, from their retirement date to whichever is lesser of six years or the second end of a parliament that occurs after their retirement.

The closure of the parliamentary retirement travel entitlement scheme to parliamentarians who enter or re-enter the parliament on or after 6 March 2012 currently applies to all parliamentarians, including those who become Prime Minister in the future. The bill removes this restriction on future prime ministers' entitlement to parliamentary retirement travel.

The bill reduces the parliamentary retirement travel entitlement for a former prime minister who has qualified for parliamentary retirement travel on his or her retirement to 30 return domestic trips per year. The bill also reduces the parliamentary retirement travel entitlement for the spouse or de facto partner of a retired former prime minister who has qualified for parliamentary retirement travel on his or her retirement to 20 return domestic trips per year.

The bill includes a constitutional safety net provision to address any risk that amendments to the Parliamentary Retirement Travel Act 2002 may result in an acquisition of property other than on just terms. This provision is similar to the provision in section 32 of the Members of Parliament (Life Gold Pass) Act 2002.

These are sensible reforms to improve accountability in the spending of taxpayers' money, which will strengthen the parliamentary entitlements system.

I commend the bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.

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