Senate debates

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Bills

Parliamentary Entitlements Legislation Amendment Bill 2017; In Committee

5:11 pm

Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

by leave—First of all, I move amendments (1) to (14) on sheet 8044, which all deal with the retrospectivity element:

(1) Schedule 1, item 3, page 5 (lines 12 to 16), omit "No person other than a retired former Prime Minister or the spouse or de facto partner of a retired former Prime Minister will have a Parliamentary Retirement Travel Entitlement after the day section 1 of the Parliamentary Entitlements Legislation Amendment Act 2017 commences.".

(2) Schedule 1, item 12, page 7 (line 20), omit "(1)".

(3) Schedule 1, item 12, page 7 (lines 25 to 31), omit subsection 4B(2).

(4) Schedule 1, item 12, page 8 (lines 6 to 9), omit paragraph 4C(1) (a), substitute:

(a) a person becomes a holder of a Parliamentary Retirement Travel Entitlement after 13 May 2014; and

(5) Schedule 1, item 12, page 8 (line 27) to page 9 (line 10), omit subsections 4C(4) and (5).

(6) Schedule 1, item 12, page 9 (line 11), omit "other", substitute "certain".

(7) Schedule 1, item 12, page 9 (line 13), omit "14 May 2008", substitute "14 May 2014".

(8) Schedule 1, item 12, page 9 (line 19), omit "(subject to subsection (8))".

(9) Schedule 1, item 12, page 9 (line 29), omit "14 May 2011", substitute "14 May 2014".

(10) Schedule 1, item 12, page 9 (line 35), omit "(subject to subsection (8))".

(11) Schedule 1, item 12, page 10 (lines 8 to 12), omit subsection 4C(8).

(12) Schedule 1, page 17 (after line 21), after item 38, insert:

38A Amendments do not apply retrospectively

Despite anything else in this Schedule, the amendments made by this Schedule do not apply in relation to a person who, immediately before the commencement time, had satisfied the relevant qualifying period for the issue of a Life Gold Pass under the old Act.

(13) Schedule 1, item 39, page 17 (line 23), after "this item", insert "and item 38A".

(14) Schedule 1, item 39, page 18 (lines 11 to 20), omit subitem (4).

If those are not supported by the Senate, as I mentioned in my speech in the second reading debate, I will later be moving amendments to remove the entitlements for all former parliamentarians, not just some, so that includes prime ministers. If that is not carried, I then have a further set of amendments to limit the gold pass entitlement to former prime ministers commensurate to their service in the chamber.

As I was interrupted by question time, I was just making the point to other people who had spoken in this debate that they are all on $200,000 a year. It is not a bad salary, but what they are doing is taking this Life Gold Pass away from retired former politicians—not anyone here in this chamber. They are not eligible for the Life Gold Pass and never would have been. I am eligible but, as I said in my speech in the second reading debate, it will never apply to me, because you have to be retired, and I never intend to retire, but if I do, after 27 years of flying seven hours to and from Canberra each sitting week to attend my work, the last thing I want to do if I ever leave here is to get on an aeroplane.

But other speakers were missing the point: when these former politicians left this place, the salary was much less. And why was it much less? Because there were a couple of perks around: you had a Life Gold Pass, and there was something called overseas study leave. They were taken away, and those of us who remained were compensated by a fairly substantial increase in pay. I think it was—this is going back to 2011, I think—something like $50,000, and that is why you now get $200,000 a year: because you do not get the Life Gold Pass and you do not get the overseas study leave and a few other things. They were bundled up and put into your salary. But former politicians did not get compensated, so what we are doing now is taking those away, as they did to serving politicians a few years ago. They were taken away from us, but we were compensated. For the former politicians, they were taken away but no compensation was ever given.

I want to briefly refer to the court decision that someone mentioned, but before I get onto that—and I will mention the court decision, because it is relevant to the point I was just making—can I just say that all of the speakers who spoke earlier made the comparison that we should bring in this banning of the Life Gold Pass retrospectively from politicians who have retired years ago because Tony Burke went to Ayers Rock with his family on a taxpayer funded holiday, or Sussan Ley allegedly did things wrong at the Gold Coast. Whether they are right or wrong, yes, let us address those things, but that is not what this bill is about. This bill is about taking away an entitlement from former members of parliament. They are no longer here, they do not have a voice, they do not have a say; it is just taken away retrospectively. I am a member of the Liberal Party, and one of the tenets of the Liberal Party is you never support retrospective legislation, for all the right reasons, some of which I mentioned in my contribution in the second reading debate.

Senator Burston said politicians should not get any more; they should get the same deal as everyone else. Senator Burston, do you mean that I should get the same deal as the CEO of Australia Post perhaps? Never mind the superannuation! I would get a salary of $5 million a year, not the $200,000 I get. Is that the one you want me to be the same as? Do we need the same conditions as everyone else—perhaps all of the members on the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, who are on about twice as much as you get, Senator Burston. Perhaps you meant senior public servants, the heads of departments? They are all on about three or four times what you are getting, Senator Burston. It is not that you are complaining or I am complaining. And I say to the trolls on social media, I am not complaining. I am very happy on what I have been getting. I have been very happy for 27 years. If I was not happy, I would have retired. I would have resigned. I would have got out of here. I have never complained. I never complain. Nobody forces me to be here. I am here because I like the job and because I think I can help people. But, Senator Burston, when you say, 'Let's get the same deal as everyone else,' just remember who the everyone else is.

My local newspaper—I did not bother to read it, I might say—compared my retirement salary to that of a soldier who had retired. The article, so they told me—as I said, I did not bother to read it—compared mine with this soldier and said how much better mine was. I said, 'Oh, that's fine. Who was the soldier?' 'He was a sergeant.' Well, sergeants are important, very good people. I would have thought a better comparison for my retirement package would have been perhaps that of Deputy Chief of Army. I have been a minister for nine years. I have been in parliament 27 years. The Chief of Army is there for two years. I do not quite know what he gets, but I suspect his salary in retirement and everything else is far better than I have. But the trolls in social media, the lazy journalists, will never report the truth or the honesty or the facts. They will just do what the hate-mailers like to hear.

Senator Di Natale talked about the electoral allowance. As I said to him, 'Senator Di Natale, nobody forces you to take the electoral allowance. If you think it is bad, you can give it back.' It is the same, every time there is an increase in parliamentarians' salaries by an independent tribunal. You always get the Greens getting up and going, 'Oh, this is awful, this is awful, this should never happen.'

Senator Rice interjecting

I say to them, 'Well, you do not have to take the increase,' Senator Rice. 'You can give it back.' But you know what, Mr Temporary Chair Sterle, they never do. They always complain, they always blame the government, whichever government is in, but they still put it in their pockets. The hypocrisy of that sort of approach just absolutely sickens me. Senator Di Natale was on about all of these great benefits for politicians. Well, Senator Di Natale, I would not mind having the staff that you have. You have more staff than most. You have more support mechanisms than most. But that is okay for you, because with your typical Greens hypocrisy these sorts of things never seem to bother you.

Senator Xenophon spoke about state parliamentarians and their overseas trips. I can never quite understand what Senator Xenophon as a state parliamentarian was ever doing going overseas. I thought the federal government was more aligned to foreign affairs. One thing I did agree with Senator Xenophon on was that Senator Ryan, who is the minister in charge of this bill, has shown absolute courtesy and professionalism in his dealings with all of us, even including me—and I might say that sometimes that might have been a difficult position. But I do agree with Senator Xenophon on that.

Senator Hanson raised a couple of issues, some of which, I might say, I agreed with. But, Senator Hanson, with people out there, there are always sad stories. There are always disadvantaged people, homeless people. There are always good groups, very good volunteer groups, wanting more money. I do not deny that. I wish we were in a country where we could give everybody everything they wanted, but unfortunately we are not. But I say to you that taking $1 million or $2 million, what it is worth retrospectively, off 30 or 40, I believe—someone tells me it is 150—former politicians retrospectively is not going to enable us to give all these disadvantaged people all the things that they ask for, which we would love to do.

I just wanted to make those comments in response to some of the comments that were made earlier. Again, I conclude by saying this is not about existing entitlements or rights of current members of parliament. This is about former politicians, and this was part of their deal when they left, going back to 1918, and it is being taken away retrospectively.

The matter of a court case has been mentioned. With due respect, I hesitate to argue with the majority of their honours, but Justice Nettle said this in his judgement:

The difficulty with that, however—

as the other three judges observed—

is that the power conferred on the Remuneration … is a power to determine allowances from time to time. It necessarily follows that the Life Gold Pass entitlement as determined by the Remuneration Tribunal was from its inception inherently subject to change from time to time.

I must say that those learned justices missed the point. The Remuneration Tribunal is there for current members of parliament, for the entitlements or support mechanisms that current members of parliament have. I think the best judgement in that case came from the dissenting judge, Justice Gageler. I think His Honour Justice Gageler, who gave the dissenting judgement on the High Court, understood far better than the other judges what this is all about. And why wouldn't he? Because before Justice Gageler went to the High Court he was the Commonwealth Solicitor-General. In his judgement he said:

The Tribunal—

meaning the Remuneration Tribunal—

itself had no power to alter rights attaching to a Life Gold Pass that had been issued to a retiring member in accordance with a subsisting determination by varying or amending that determination. That was because the power of the Tribunal under s 7(1) of the Remuneration Tribunal Act, to which s 7(4) was ancillary, was relevantly limited to determining allowances to be paid from time to time to current members of the Parliament by reason of their membership of the Parliament.

I think Justice Gageler had it right. With respect to the majority of the court, who perhaps did not understand this as well as Justice Gageler did, that is the right interpretation. I am very disappointed that Justice Gageler's view, which I think is the right view, did not prevail with the whole court.

I now move to my amendments and first of all to those listed on sheet 8044. Without going through these in minute detail—and the technical amendments are there on the sheet that has been distributed around the chamber—I will repeat what the amendments do. They say that any element of this legislation before us that is retrospective should be deleted. I will not go through the reasons I raised in my speech in the second reading debate, some of which I have touched on in this committee debate. Clearly, retrospectivity of any nature is wrong, wrong, wrong. The fact that it relates to a group of people who are as unpopular as politicians is a side issue. Just because nobody likes the people who are negatively affected does not alter the fact, does not alter the law and does not alter the principle that any retrospective legislation is wrong.

My first group of amendments seeks to say that from here on in you can do what you like. You can take it away. In fact, I understand since 2011 it has been taken away for any new members of parliament. There are some existing members of parliament who would be eligible. As I said, I would be eligible, but I repeat again for the media and the trolls on social media that it does not involve me. I am not interested. I am never going to set foot on a plane if I ever retire from here. It is not about me; it is about former politicians who do not have a voice. There are some in this parliament—not too many in the Senate but some in the other place—who would be eligible.

We might not like giving them this thing, but it was a right given to them, an entitlement given to them, ages ago which they should be able to access. Very soon the people who are eligible will die and this whole sorry episode of the life gold pass will be completely forgotten about. It will not apply to anyone. In the meantime it might cost $2 million to $3 million—the government says $5 million. Five million dollars is a lot of money, but when the government spends upwards of $300 billion every year $5 million is not going to fix the budget. I am asking for support for this group of amendments that would remove the retrospectivity. (Time expired)

Question negatived.

I think I was the only voice so I could not call for a division, but I ask that the record notes that I actually voted for those amendments. I thought the minister was going to respond on the amendments but he chose not to.

Photo of Glenn SterleGlenn Sterle (WA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It is noted.

5:28 pm

Photo of Lee RhiannonLee Rhiannon (NSW, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

by leave—I move:

(1) Schedule 1, item 3, page 4 (line 16) to page 5 (line 16), omit the item, substitute:

3 Section 3

Repeal the section, substitute:

3 Simplified outline of this Act

      (a) there are limits on when a person must have entered Parliament, and when a person must have satisfied the qualifying period and retired from the Parliament, in order to become the holder of a Parliamentary Retirement Travel Entitlement; and

      (b) a Parliamentary Retirement Travel Entitlement expires after a limited period.

          Crimes (Superannuation Benefits) Act 1989
          Parliamentary Entitlements Legislation Amendment Act 2017

        (2) Schedule 1, item 8, page 6 (line 25), omit "the Prime Minister or".

        (3) Schedule 1, item 10, page 7 (lines 9 and 10), omit ", other than to members who become Prime Minister".

        (5) Schedule 1, item 12, page 7 (lines 22 to 24), omit ", unless the person is the Prime Minister, or a former Prime Minister, when he or she retires".

        (6) Schedule 1, item 12, page 7 (lines 29 to 31), omit ", unless the person is the Prime Minister, or a former Prime Minister, when he or she retires".

        (7) Schedule 1, item 12, page 8 (lines 1 and 2), omit "(other than for former Prime Ministers)".

        (8) Schedule 1, item 12, page 8 (lines 3 to 12), omit subsection 4C(1), substitute:

        Parliamentary Retirement Travel Entitlement expires in accordance with this section

        (1) If a person is a holder of a Parliamentary Retirement Travel Entitlement on 13 May 2014, or becomes a holder of a Parliamentary Retirement Travel Entitlement after that day, the person's Parliamentary Retirement Travel Entitlement expires in accordance with this section.

        (9) Schedule 1, item 12, page 8 (line 18), omit "subject to subsection (3),".

        (10) Schedule 1, item 12, page 8 (lines 25 and 26), omit subsection 4C(3).

        (11) Schedule 1, item 12, page 8 (lines 33 and 34), omit "but is not a former Prime Minister".

        (12) Schedule 1, item 12, page 9 (line 7), omit "a former Prime Minister or".

        (13) Schedule 1, item 12, page 9 (lines 16 and 17), omit "but is not a former Prime Minister".

        (14) Schedule 1, item 12, page 9 (line 32), omit "a former Prime Minister or".

        (15) Schedule 1, items 13 and 14, page 10 (lines 13 to 19), omit the items, substitute:

        13 Section 9 (heading)

        Repeal the heading, substitute:

        9 When return trip is in a year

        13A Subsection 9(1) (heading)

        Repeal the heading.

        13B Subsection 9(1)

        Omit "(1)".

        13C Subsections 9(2), (3) and (4)

        Repeal the subsections.

        14 Sections 9A and 9B

        Repeal the sections.

        (16) Schedule 1, items 16 and 17, page 10 (lines 23 to 28), omit the items, substitute:

        16 Subsection 10(1) (table items 2 and 3)

        Repeal the items.

        17 Subsection 10(3)

        Repeal the subsection.

        (17) Schedule 1, item 20, page 11 (lines 3 to 17), omit the item, substitute:

        20 Section 13

        Omit:

        (b) a pro-rata adjustment where a person becomes the spouse or de facto partner of a former member or member during a year;

        (c) a pro-rata adjustment where, during a year, a member satisfies the relevant qualifying period for the issue of a Life Gold Pass.

        substitute:

        (b) a pro-rata adjustment where the maximum term of a Parliamentary Retirement Travel Entitlement under subsection 4C(6) or (7) will end during a year.

        (18) Schedule 1, item 21, page 11 (lines 20 and 21), omit ", or former Prime Minister nominates spouse ordefactopartner,".

        (19) Schedule 1, items 23 and 24, page 12 (lines 1 to 6), omit the items, substitute:

        23 Subsection 14(1) (table item 2)

        Repeal the item.

        (20) Schedule 1, item 26, page 12 (lines 9 to 24), omit the item, substitute:

        26 Subsection 14(2)

        Repeal the subsection, substitute:

        (2) The number of domestic return trips for the purposes of the table in subsection (1) is the number of trips worked out using the formula in subsection (2A).

        26A Subsection 14(2A)

        Omit "paragraph (2) (a)", substitute "subsection (2)".

        (21) Schedule 1, item 28, page 13 (lines 18 to 31), omit subsection 18(3), substitute:

        Interaction between items 1 and 2 of the table in subsection (2) and the rules in section 4C about expiry of Parliamentary Retirement Travel Entitlements

        (3) If item 2 of the table in subsection (2) applies (whether or not item 1 also applies), then nothing in either of those items is to be taken to result in:

        (a) the person resuming being the holder of a Parliamentary Retirement Travel Entitlement; or

        (b) requiring a Parliamentary Retirement Travel Entitlement to be restored to the person;

        on the revocation of the order if the revocation takes effect after the nominal expiry time for the Parliamentary Retirement Travel Entitlement that the person held when the order was made.

        (22) Schedule 1, items 29 to 31, page 14 (lines 5 to 18), omit the items, substitute:

        29 Paragraph 21(a)

        Omit ", or the surviving spouse or de facto partner of a former member,".

        30 Section 21

        Omit ", or the surviving spouse or de facto partner, as the case may be," (wherever occurring).

        31 Section 22

        Repeal the section.

        (23) Schedule 1, items 33 and 34, page 14 (lines 21 to 26), omit the items, substitute:

        33 Subsection 28(2)

        Repeal the subsection.

        34 Paragraph 29(1) (b)

        Omit ", or the person's spouse or de facto partner,".

        34A Subsection 29(1)

        Omit "traveller" (wherever occurring), substitute "person".

        These are the first amendments that we have that will, if adopted, give effect to totally getting rid of the gold pass. At the moment the government has not done that job fully. If the legislation passes in the form we have it in here, former prime ministers will still have a gold pass, so it will live on. Obviously then it would reach its centenary. I said in my speech during the second reading debate why that is really not advisable. When we have heard from the minister there has not been a case put. There has been no justification set out for why prime ministers should retain the gold pass.

        Also I would like to bring to the attention of senators that the 2010 Belcher review into entitlements—and we know there have been many reviews—recommended abolishing the scheme prospectively and allowing existing members to retain their entitlements. That was the summary of it. But there was no exemption for former prime ministers. At that stage, although it was a step towards getting rid of the whole Life Gold Pass, they were already recognising that former prime ministers should not be given a special place here. I want to draw to the attention of senators that this has been recognised in this previous report. It is actually recommendation 20 where the Life Gold Pass is dealt with and where you can see the review did not make any exemption for former prime ministers. It is disappointing now that the government has brought in this exemption for prime ministers when we were on the eve of cleaning up the whole mess.

        When I spoke earlier I also said that this is an issue of enormous public concern, and, being frank about it, it would be hard for any senator to deny why we are now debating it and why the government has got to this point. It is because it has become untenable to keep this scheme going. The government knows it. We have all seen it in one form or another when we are out in our communities, when we are back in our states talking to people. There is concern. There is cynicism. Senator Richard Di Natale put it very clearly on the record. I have also. This legislation is still important, but let us do the job thoroughly. That is what the Greens' amendments do. I urge members to support the Greens' amendments as the first step in the package that we are bringing forward to clean up the Life Gold Pass entirely so that we can get rid of it and we can delegate it to history.

        5:31 pm

        Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (Victoria, Liberal Party, Special Minister of State) Share this | | Hansard source

        I will take this opportunity on behalf of the government to respond to a number of amendments that I know are being moved with respect to former prime ministers, given the time the Senate is debating this. The government believes that there is a reasonable expectation that former prime ministers are required and, indeed, do attend official charity events in their capacity as former prime ministers. Allowing for some travel post-retirement is reasonable.

        In my view, it is almost impossible for a former Prime Minister to be immediately free of the commitments and demands that naturally arise from holding such a high office when they leave parliament. Successive governments have taken this into account in providing former prime ministers with a range of facilities, including domestic travel, to assist them in meeting the commitments that arise from their continued standing and involvement in the community. However, the government is ensuring, in these legislative changes, that new restrictions are introduced concerning the travel of former prime ministers as well. First, travel for former prime ministers will be reduced to a maximum of 30 return trips per year, down from a maximum of 40 return trips per year at the moment, which, we believe, will more than cover the requirements for the responsibilities of former prime ministers. This is outlined in clause 16 of the bill. Second, former prime ministers using their Life Gold Pass will also be subject to a new test within these legislative changes to ensure that any travel is for the public benefit and not for commercial or private purposes. This is outlined in 4AA of the bill. I think we have been reasonably lucky in this country with former prime ministers. Someone mentioned Mr Whitlam, who had access to the scheme for a long time. I think it is fair say—although he was not a member of the same party as I—that he did undertake substantial community work, as did Mr Fraser.

        With respect to another of the amendments that has been moved, in terms of time limiting access for former prime ministers, the truth is there is an effective time limit that comes by virtue of age. We can see, as we look through the use of the facility by former prime ministers, that as they become less able to fulfil those responsibilities they do not use the Life Gold Pass, as it was called and as it is now being renamed. The government and I believe that there is a place for former prime ministers that is different from other former members of parliament. I will also make the observation that, upon announcing and introducing these measures, the current Prime Minister, Mr Turnbull, made it very clear he would not be accessing this facility whatsoever upon his departure from that office, whenever that may be. So, the government will be opposing these amendments.

        5:34 pm

        Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

        I indicate to the minister that I agree with everything he said. In fact, I said that in my speech in the second reading debate. I accept that former prime ministers do have a role to play and should be given these entitlements. But I ask the minister, 'Why do former prime ministers get that benefit, but not former treasurers?' In my speech in the second reading debate I made the comment that Ms Gillard is seen as perhaps the worst Prime Minister that Australia has ever had.

        Opposition Senators:

        Opposition senators interjecting

        Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

        People will argue about that. You thought she was pretty good—you tried to keep her in power—but the Australian view was that she was the worst Prime Minister Australia has ever had. She was only there for 2½ years. Whether you are a Liberal, Labor or whatever, people recognise that Peter Costello was a wonderful treasurer for over 13 years. Why should Ms Gillard get this if Mr Costello does not? The same goes for former foreign ministers, former health ministers and even for former backbenchers who I know—

        Photo of Nick McKimNick McKim (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

        You, for example!

        Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

        No, sorry; I was a minister for nine years, Senator McKim—longer than you will ever be.

        Photo of Glenn SterleGlenn Sterle (WA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

        Senator Macdonald. I implore you to ignore the interjections and direct your comments through the chair.

        Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

        They are very easy to ignore, but they help remind me of some points that should be made. Even people who have never been a minister but who have been here a long time are called upon by community groups. I had an instance recently, not of me—I do want to identify him too much—but of a former minister based in Melbourne. He was at a university event in Townsville, and I was there when a group from Mount Isa came up to him and said: 'You've had a bit to do with this. We'd love you to come out and do our graduation ceremony.' This former minister said, 'I'd love to do it, but, hang on, I live in Melbourne and I'm a pensioner, so for me to get from Melbourne to Mount Isa to do this is going to be a cost that I cannot afford.' That group did not have the funds to pay his way there, so there was a group of Australians who missed out. So I ask the minister: what is the difference between long-serving ministers and prime ministers, some of whom you would not want to invite to an afternoon barbecue?

        The principle is wrong. While I agree with what the minister said in relation to prime ministers, it also applies to former ministers; also applies to people who were not prime ministers. That is my point. Whilst I agree with that, the parliament has just decided by a majority of everyone else but me that retrospectivity is pretty good—you can do retrospective things. So, if we are going to do it to everyone else, what I need the government to explain to me is why it is okay to take these rights off a group of people retrospectively but not all right to do it for another group. It just does not make sense.

        I simply ask the mover of these amendments how it is that her amendments are different from the amendments that I moved originally and circulated—latterly, I have to say, through a mix-up of my doing. I announced in the parliament three or four days ago that I would be moving amendments and so I ask Senator Rhiannon how her amendments are different to the amendments I flagged in this chamber I think last Tuesday, which I have circulated and which I spoke about at some length in my speech during the second reading debate. I have only just had a look at Senator Rhiannon's amendments, but I want to know how they are different from the amendments I flagged and about which I notified the parliament—not only publicly in here; I wrote to every parliamentary leader and to all the crossbenchers advising them of what my amendments were. I might say that I did not receive the same courtesy back from the Australian Greens, but then who would expect courtesies from the Australian Greens? I would be interested to hear from Senator Rhiannon how her amendments are different from the ones I flagged.

        I return to the minister and ask if he can explain how retrospectively taking away rights is okay for one group of parliamentarians but not for another group of parliamentarians. If he says because they were prime ministers, important people, then I ask what is the difference between Ms Gillard and Mr Costello, using those two people as examples. I am quite sure Peter Costello will be embarrassed by me using his name because I suspect he would not be interested in this debate at all—but he was a very good Treasurer, and it is the principle of a matter. If retrospectivity according to everyone else in this chamber is okay, why do we use that to remove benefits from one group people but not another group?

        I will wait for Senator Rhiannon to explain her amendments and how they differ from mine, but clearly, as I have said a number of times, I support the principle of the amendments that I have moved and that Senator Rhiannon has copied—that is, that this should apply to everyone. I foreshadow, again, that if these amendments do not meet the approval of this chamber I will be then moving another set of amendments to say that, okay, if the parliament decides that this group of politicians can have these rights and they will not be taken away retrospectively, like the parliament has just done to another group of politicians, then I will say at least then in some way curtail the entitlements of former prime ministers in proportion to the time they served as prime ministers. That means that Mr Abbott, Ms Gillard and Mr Rudd would get a small number of Life Gold Pass travel entitlements, Mr Keating and Mr Hawke would get a little bit more and Mr Howard, who is the longest serving of any of the former prime ministers, would get an even greater amount. In my amendment I did not try to work out the formulas—I thought that was something better done by regulation.

        I will be interested to see what the Labor Party's view is on removing entitlements from former prime ministers. I do note, as I noted in my speech on the second reading, that four of the former prime ministers are from the Labor Party and only one is from another party—Mr Howard, from the Liberal Party. I suspect that the Labor Party would have been imposed upon by Mr Hawke, Mr Keating, Mr Rudd and Ms Gillard not to have any part of these amendments, but I would be interested to hear what the Labor Party say about them, too. More importantly, I would be interested to hear the reason they give. The reason should not be that Mr Hawke, Mr Keating, Mr Rudd and Ms Gillard have imposed upon them to do it—I would like to have a sensible account from the Labor Party. If they do not support these amendments—perhaps I am misreading them—I would like them to clearly explain what it is that has led them to believe that retrospectivity is okay for one group of people but not okay for another group of people.

        The CHAIR: The question is that amendments (1) to (3) and (5) to (23) on sheet 8062 revised, moved by Senator Rhiannon, be agreed to.

        5:51 pm

        Photo of Lee RhiannonLee Rhiannon (NSW, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

        The Greens oppose item 11 of schedule 1 in the following terms:

        (4) Schedule 1, item 11, page 7 (lines 11 to 15), to be opposed.

        Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

        I take it that Senator Rhiannon is not going to tell the chamber what it is about. I find this a very odd debate. It is one of the few times I have been in this chamber where, in the committee stage, questions are asked of ministers or of movers of motions and you get absolute silence. I can only assume from that that there is not an answer.

        You might recall, Madam Chair, that in the last debate I asked the Labor Party why they were opposing it and whether it was because there were four Labor former prime ministers and only one Liberal one and they did not want to earn the wrath of Mr Keating, Mr Hawke, Mr Rudd or—

        Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

        Thanks. I had forgotten her already. So it is a rather strange debate.

        I want to again ask the minister and perhaps Senator Rhiannon, as she has found her voice, why we should be supporting these amendments. I will be, as I say, subsequently moving amendments, the parliament having not agreed with my amendment on removing retrospectivity and not agreeing with what was effectively my amendment moved by Senator Rhiannon to include former prime ministers in the ban of the Life Gold Pass.

        With the next lot of amendments I will be moving, the parliament having decided that former prime ministers should get the benefit of the Life Gold Pass but that it should not be available to former treasurers, foreign ministers or health ministers, I ask: why then shouldn't we limit the entitlements of former prime ministers to in some way be commensurate with the length of service they gave? Ms Gillard and Mr Rudd were there for a relatively short time—the same with Mr Abbott. It seems inappropriate that they should have the same entitlements as someone who served for 10 years or more as Mr Howard did, most of that time with great success as a Prime Minister of Australia.

        I am disappointed that the government—my government and the government I support—has not been able to explain why it is that, although the legislation from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet which says that provisions that have a retrospective operation adversely affecting on rights and imposing liability are to be included only in exceptional circumstances, that should be ignored. No-one has explained why the basic Liberal Party tenet of opposition to retrospectivity should be cast aside in this instance. The legislative principle that is often articulated is that citizens are entitled to regulate their affairs on the assumption that current circumstances are substantially settled. That is why, in the case of the superannuation debate that we all remember late last year, I indicated to my Treasurer that if the two retrospective elements of that legislation were to be included I would be crossing the floor and voting against it. I am glad the Treasurer took that on—not just because of me; there were others who told him the same. We all understand that retrospective legislation is bad because people plan their lives on the basis of the law as it is. I know former politicians. I know all of them.

        Senator Hanson at the beginning of her speech on the second reading read out what some people who responded to her survey said about politicians. I think it was about the Life Gold Pass. Senator Hanson, I say to you that if the question had been not about the Life Gold Pass but rather, 'What do you think about politicians getting $200,000 a year?' I guarantee you would have got exactly the same answers from all of those people who paid out on the Life Gold Pass. That is the way it is. It would not matter if we were paid nothing: people would still hate us.

        People do not have the benefit that we do, particularly ministers, of good advice in understanding issues perhaps a little bit more closely than the headlines they receive in the popular press. Perhaps 'popular press' is not quite appropriate these days. People are leaving the media in droves and going to more responsible, direct information from the source, as President Trump has indicated is appropriate.

        But my point is that it does not matter. Just because the group that is being disadvantaged is a group that nobody likes, that does not make it right. It does not make it right. Nobody has been able to—

        Photo of Sarah Hanson-YoungSarah Hanson-Young (SA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

        Like refugees, Macca?

        Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

        Senator Hanson-Young is a typical example of why politicians are so detested. That is why the Greens continue to get such a low vote across the nation and why their vote is continually falling. It is because people see through their hypocrisy. It is really the hypocrisy of political parties such as the Greens political party that bring politicians as a whole group into disrepute and who make them unpopular.

        It is also people such as those in the Labor Party who continue to support people who have broken the law. I mention Craig Thompson. I mention a current senator who got a benefit from a Chinese company to pay his own personal bills, not even for campaigning, not even for his political party. This is why politicians are held in such low esteem. One would think that people like that would be ostracised forever, but what happens in the Labor Party? They get promoted. That is why the general public do not like politicians. But that does not alter the principle that if you are taking away rights retrospectively that is bad, even if it is rights that belong to a group as disliked as parliamentarians.

        Some people have indicated to my office that my thoughts on 'why don't we follow Hitler and Stalin' are inappropriate. My thoughts there, which I will repeat, were that if people think parliamentarians are such bad people, why do we bother with parliamentarians at all? Why don't we follow Hitler or Stalin or Idi Amin and just do away with parliamentarians? Then nobody will hate our parliamentarians, because there will be none around. Is that the sort of society we want?

        I love my constituency. They voted for me regularly and often over the last 27 years. They are lovely people. Most of them understand that life is not easy. Just because something is popular does not mean it is right. It is popular to give everybody everything they want. If we were able to do that we would be loved by everyone. But, unfortunately, someone has to pay. Someone has to work out what the priorities are. Popular thought, which apparently we are following today, is that everyone should get everything they ask for. But we, as responsible parliamentarians—on this side of the chamber, anyway—have to say, 'We would love to give you everything you want, but you have to put some sense into this; you have to worry about your children and grandchildren and their generation.'

        So, whilst it is easy to be popular, it is not easy for me doing what I am doing now, as you would appreciate. It is not easy, but life is never easy, as a former prime minister once said. It is very easy to be popular. It is very easy to be the Greens, because they always come in here and say, 'Give everybody everything they want. Give us everything we want.' They never have to bother about paying for it. They never have to worry about the ramifications. They never have to worry about making a country work properly in the right way, not in the popular way. People will criticise me for saying that you do not go along with popularity and what happens to be popular at the moment. I try to think that we as a government would do the right thing, not the popular thing. But it appears from the vote in the chamber today that parliamentarians are more concerned with what is popular than what is right. Taking away rights retrospectively is never right.

        In this committee stage of the bill I want to ask the minister what the savings would be from taking these entitlements away from former parliamentarians and, relative to this particular amendment, what the cost is of providing it in its reduced form to past prime ministers. Could we get some detail of the costs involved so we could know what that is? Could I also pre-empt my next set of amendments and ask the minister if he and his department have been able to calculate the cost savings that there would be if the gold pass entitlement of former prime ministers was done on a basis of proportionality with their time in service. Would there be a big cost saving? I suspect that with the savings we have already made today—by my calculation, $1 million to $2 million, but the minister may be able to correct me on that—that is some saving to a $300 billion dollar plus budget, but I would like to get on the record the figures of what the savings will be from getting rid of this entitlement retrospectively; what we will save the budget and what the cost of gold pass for prime ministers will be in its reduced form—I assume that the department has made some calculations along those lines—and what the cost might be if the entitlements of former prime ministers were in some way reduced proportionately according to their length of service.

        Photo of Chris KetterChris Ketter (Queensland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

        The question is that item 11 on schedule 1 stand as printed.

        6:05 pm

        Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

        Again I draw the attention of the chamber—it does not need me to draw attention to it; I guess everyone can see—that this is an incredible situation, where the mover of the amendment is not even prepared to explain what the amendment is, and the minister is not prepared to answer any questions about it. I find this absolutely incredible. Hopefully this is not an indication of how this chamber is going to work into the future. I find it very strange that when the Greens bring in quite ridiculous amendments to most bills that everyone else approves, ministers sit here for hours answering irrelevant and ridiculous questions; yet reasonable questions about what this might cost or what saving might be go ignored and unanswered.

        There are questions of the Labor Party on why they vote one way. The Labor Party are not prepared to justify why they vote this way. They are not prepared to say that I am wrong when I suggest they do it because there are four Labor prime ministers who benefit. And I know that the Labor Party are pretty good at this. They will always make sure that, somewhere or other, they are looked after. Mr Craig Thomson, of course, is a case in point. Remember him? He was a member of parliament for some time. I am not sure if he is in jail now, whether he was or whether he is about to be. My namesake in New South Wales, Ian Macdonald—remember him? He was alleged before ICAC to be involved in criminal activities. The Labor Party closed ranks behind them. Remember the general secretary of the Labor Party in New South Wales—who happens to be in this chamber now? Remember how he looked after Mr Craig Thomson? He made sure his legal bills were paid and supported him at every step of the way. Yet, we accept that as being par for the course of the Labor Party.

        Perhaps it was a plea that I really did not expect an answer to. But why are the Labor Party voting the way they are? I think there has only been one speaker from the Labor Party, and that was the very first speaker who spoke, I think, for about five minutes. They are not prepared to even justify to the Australian community why they think retrospectivity is good for a group of people—most of them Labor people, I might say—but not good for former prime ministers. I would just be curious as to the policy process within the Labor Party as to why this happened and how they can possibly justify this.

        I suspect that the fact that the Labor Party cannot justify it and that, I regret to say, my own government chooses not to publicly justify it seems to suggest that perhaps there is not a justification. Perhaps it is just the populist cycle we are going through now. Perhaps it has spooked the Labor Party and the government. In my second reading speech I gave examples of where, in the past, Labor leaders and Liberal leaders have, when running low in the polls, always cut away entitlements. I demonstrated earlier how it made not one iota of difference. Mr Latham lost, Mr Howard lost, Ms Gillard lost, Tony Abbott lost. It does not make any difference. That is why I am urging senators to do what is right, not what is populist.

        Whilst we hate politicians and hate former politicians particularly, they had an entitlement that this parliament is retrospectively taking from them. It is like someone walking into your house—it is not a very good example, but it is the same sort of thing—and taking your gold ring. It is something that has been yours for years and that you have been entitled to. Someone comes and takes it away. You would be upset if that happened. But, because it is former parliamentarians who do not have a voice here and do not have an opportunity to have their say, that seems to be okay. I look forward to the day, of course, in the future when the same thing will happen to the current group of parliamentarians. Mark my words: it will. But it just does seem that because it is popular does not mean it is right.

        Again, I ask the minister—I will not even bother with Senator Rhiannon; she probably does not understand way she has moved the amendment—to explain at least the financial aspects of this deal and what wonderful savings we are going to be making for the budget. Remember, we have a budget that, if there had not been a change of government, under the Labor Party it would have run out to some $700 billion. That is what Labor and the Greens did. They spent everyone's money, not theirs. It is easy to spend everyone else's. We have a budget running out to $700 billion. So we do have to try and curtail expenditure. This is why I would be curious to know what the real figure is on the savings that the decisions made by this parliament are going to do to the current budget. And I think the current budget is around $400 billion, isn't it? What are the savings going to do? You cannot say you are doing what is right. I suspect it is the case—although I will wait for the answer. But you cannot say you are doing it to save money.

        Again, I refer you to all of the authors, but particularly to His Honour Justice Gageler and his interpretation of what is happening here. This is what happens in totalitarian countries. You know—you do not have a right to freedom, you do not have a right to property; it is the right of the totalitarian government to come and take what is yours. But, fortunately, we are not in a totalitarian government; we are in a democratic government where people do have rights. I am so disappointed that this parliament has not respected people's rights, no matter if, as I say, it is a group as unpopular as former politicians. It is a great disappointment to me that this parliament does not respect rights and is prepared to trade them away.

        I will leave with that. I hope that the minister may be able to answer the questions. If he is not prepared to justify why former parliamentarians should not have this right—it is okay to take it away respectively but not for former prime ministers—and if he is not prepared to explain that, that is fair enough. But at least can we get the figures.

        The CHAIR: The question is that item 11 of schedule 1 stand as printed.

        6:21 pm

        Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

        I did not take part in that vote, so I had time to get to my chair. I now move amendment (1) standing in my name on sheet 8069:

        (1) Schedule 1, page 14 (after line 28), after item 35, insert:

        35A At the end of Part 8

        Add:

        36 Prime Ministers

        Despite any other provision of this Act:

        (a) any entitlement of a former Prime Minister to hold a Parliamentary Retirement Travel Entitlement, or to trips under this Act; and

        (b) any entitlement of a spouse or de facto partner of a former Prime Minister to trips under this Act;

        is to be determined proportionally, based on the length of time the former Prime Minister was the Prime Minister, in accordance with the regulations.

        I probably will not take more than 15 minutes to explain my reason for moving that amendment. As I indicated in my speech on the second reading, I am moving the amendment with respect to any entitlement to former prime ministers, which this parliament has now decided is appropriate, even although neither the government nor the Labor Party was prepared or able, perhaps, to explain why this should happen. What I would now like to do, accepting that parliament has decided that, is to try and ensure that the entitlements for former prime ministers bear some resemblance to their length of service to Australia.

        I was told a story recently about the late Frank Forde, who many who follow Australian political history will know was the Labor Prime Minister of Australia for I think about eight days during the war years. He, of course, was entitled to an unlimited Life Gold Pass, entitled to an office in Sydney or Brisbane or one of the capital cities, entitled to a secretary and entitled to other supports. Do not hold me to the dates, but I think he had that entitlement for something like 46 years after he retired from parliament. I think he died not long ago. He was a nice fellow, from all reports from people who did know him. I must say I never came across him. I think he was the member for Kennedy, or a seat up in North Queensland somewhere. He had been Prime Minister for a period of eight days. Because of that, under the rules then applying, he was entitled to these benefits for a large number of years following. It seems to me that that is not right or appropriate. I do concede that it is a benefit that really was a property right under the Constitution, but this parliament does not seem to have agreed with that. It should stay, but this parliament has decided: 'Forget about those constitutional issues. Don't worry about them. We'll just take them away.' If we are going to do that, I think we then should curtail what former prime ministers are entitled to on their retirement so that it is in some way commensurate with their length of service to the country.

        Mr Frank Forde no doubt performed a sterling service in the eight days that he was Prime Minister, I think during the war years, taking over at very difficult time, on the death of one Prime Minister before the Labor Party got around to electing another Prime Minister. So perhaps he did perform a real service. But, in the attitude this parliament is in at the moment, one would not think that it would have entitled him to subsequent decades of the Life Gold Pass and the other emoluments that came with it.

        We are dealing with the Parliamentary Entitlements Legislation Amendment Bill. But, shortly, when the parliament finishes dealing with that bill, we will move to discuss the bill relating to the oversight authority that is going to look into parliamentarians, guide parliamentarians and audit parliamentarians on their expenses. That is a different class of bill to this one. It is not taking away any rights. It is regulating the way things are done and the way they are audited. When that bill comes forward I will also be moving amendments, not just to have this oversight of parliamentarians, which is important; I want this authority to have oversight over all people on the Commonwealth government payroll. I think most people would think that is fair.

        Sure, it is important that parliamentarians are accountable, that everybody knows everything about everything they do—that is fair enough. But I think the same should apply to the people who really control the money and really have the power in the government of Australia—that is, the bureaucracy, the Public Service. So, when this authority is formed, it should overlook what happens in the Public Service. Perhaps it should also overlook what happens in the senior levels of the military and in the judiciary. My amendment includes that it should also oversight the salary given to senior executive officers in companies, government corporations, in which Commonwealth ministers are the sole shareholders. By and large, whilst they do earn money and they do gain profits sometimes, they are supported by the taxpayer. So I think it is only appropriate that, as well as looking at parliamentarians and oversighting them and auditing what they do, this should be extended much wider—to anyone that receives taxpayer funding. I might say it might be appropriate for staffers of parliamentarians as well. That would be an interesting concept.

        In this day and age people are fascinated with what politicians do and with what pay they get. They would also be interested to know what salaries individual members of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal or the Human Rights Commission get. I am sure they would be very, very interested in what some of the senior presenters at the ABC get. I do not think many of you were around, but there was a time 10 years or so ago when we tried to find out what a very prominent ABC presenter got—I think he did The7.30 Report, amongst others—because he was getting paid by the Commonwealth taxpayer. The then Labor government, the union and the ABC did everything possible to stop us learning that this particular presenter was getting something in the order of $800,000 a year. As I say, this must be going back seven or eight years ago. I only know that because when it eventually became a bit of a crisis with the ABC not telling us what they got—it was for privacy reasons, supposedly—they did give us a range of what their top three presenters got. It was between $500,000 and $800,000, or something like that. So we were able to find, through the estimates committee, just what some of these presenters do get.

        I put them in the same category as parliamentarians because they exercise very great influence. They have a lot of power because they have the power of the press, but they are not accountable to anyone and not elected by anyone at all, unlike parliamentarians. At least we are elected by the people, but the ABC presenters are elected by absolutely no-one. I think it was appropriate that we should have had some idea on just what the taxpayers were paying them. As I say, there was an enormous push back from the then Labor government, the union and the ABC, but eventually we found out a range of what these presenters got for what we, the public, saw was an hour's work a night. I am sure they did a bit more than the hour, or the half hour, they were on The 7.30 Report, but the public would only see them for half an hour a night and wondered why they were getting $700,000 and $800,000. It was interesting.

        The public will not have to worry if my amendment on this next bill goes ahead because it will enable us to understand not what the junior clerk or the floor sweeper at the ABC gets, but what those in the senior echelons—those earning substantial salaries at the taxpayer's expense—earn. It might be interesting to see what they earn because, in this age, where politicians are, rightly, completely exposed, accountable and at the mercy of freedom of information claims and all that, it is appropriate that the people who have the real power in this country—that is, those in the media and the public service—should also be subject to the same sort of scrutiny. That is something that we will deal with later.

        But it is relevant to this, because what I want to do, in moving these amendments, is make the entitlements that the parliament has decided should only go to former prime ministers be related, in some way, to the length of service those former prime ministers have given to Australia. I would ask the minister the cost of the various iterations—what it costs now for former prime ministers, what it will cost now that this bill has passed to somewhat restrict what former prime ministers could do, what it would cost if Senator Bernardi's amendment were to be successful or what it would cost with my amendment if the entitlements to prime ministers were commensurate with their length of service to Australia.

        Again, it is a most difficult debate to have when, obviously by design—

        Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

        I have. Thank you for your permission. I am very appreciative of your advice and your permission, Senator Hanson-Young, but I do not need permission, thank you very much. It is a rather unusual situation where you cannot even get an answer to a question raised in committee. I find that incredible. Perhaps it is this sort of treatment that led Senator Cory Bernardi to the decision he made as regards this particular parliament and this chamber.

        In case the minister did not hear, perhaps I will ask it again. What is the cost of the Life Gold Pass travel for former prime ministers? What has it been in the last five years? What is it estimated that that cost will be as a result of this bill that is clearly going to pass? I would expect it should be a bit less, but I would like to know what that is because these savings are important when you are looking at a $700 billion deficit, even if it is only $20,000 or $30,000, which is what I suspect it is. I would be interested for the minister to tell us that. I would also be interested to hear what the financial impact might be if my amendments and the other amendments before the chamber were passed. I would hope the department, which is very good on some things but seems to be a bit more mute on other things, could give us those figures so that parliamentarians in particular, because we are voting on it, but also the general public could know what the savings and the financial impacts might be.

        Photo of Alex GallacherAlex Gallacher (SA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

        The question is that the amendment on sheet 8069, as moved by Senator Macdonald be agreed to.

        Question negatived.

        6:36 pm

        Photo of Cory BernardiCory Bernardi (SA, Australian Conservatives) Share this | | Hansard source

        by leave—I move Australian Conservative amendments (1) and (2) on sheet 8065 together.

        (1) Schedule 1, item 8, page 6 (after line 23), after the definition of Parliamentary Retirement Travel Entitlement, insert:

        Prime Minister: see section 4AB.

        (2) Schedule 1, item 9, page 7 (after line 5), after section 4AA, insert:

        4AB Prime Ministers

        For the purposes of this Act, a member is only taken to be the Prime Minister if the member has been the Prime Minister for a period of at least 4 consecutive years.

        I will not delay the Senate.

        Photo of Sarah Hanson-YoungSarah Hanson-Young (SA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

        Are you a conservative?

        Photo of Cory BernardiCory Bernardi (SA, Australian Conservatives) Share this | | Hansard source

        Yes, I am, Senator Hanson-Young. I did mention in my second reading speech the importance of these amendments in respect of prime ministers. I do believe that it has become a bit of a circus. We have had a number of prime ministers in a very short space of time. I do not think the Australian founding fathers anticipated that would be the case or that there would be lifetime benefits attached to those who, in some instances, have not done a great service to our nation despite attaining high office.

        6:38 pm

        Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

        I indicate to the chamber that I will be supporting Senator Bernardi's amendments. As I said, I cannot get the financial cost of these because the government has suddenly lost its tongue when it comes to questions here. But I am persuaded by Senator Bernardi's second reading speech that this is a worthwhile amendment and I will be supporting it.

        The TEMPORARY CHAIR: The question is that amendments (1) and (2) on sheet 8065 be agreed to.

        6:45 pm

        Photo of Cory BernardiCory Bernardi (SA, Australian Conservatives) Share this | | Hansard source

        by leave—I move:

        (1) Schedule 1, item 8, page 6 (after line 23), after the definition of Parliamentary Retirement Travel Entitlement, insert:

        Prime Minister: see section 4AB.

        (2) Schedule 1, item 9, page 7 (after line 5), after section 4AA, insert:

        4AB Prime Ministers

        For the purposes of this Act, a member is only taken to be the Prime Minister if the member has been the Prime Minister for a period of at least 4 consecutive years.

        I mentioned this in my second reading speech: the High Court case that was taken on behalf of former parliamentarians in the respect of the gold card also included a grasp for additional funds for their defined benefit scheme pensions when they retired at an early age. They wanted to avail themselves of more money. The High Court ruled that this was not a property right. I think it is only reasonable that those who retire from this place who are eligible for a defined benefit pension scheme are not able to access it until they reach the preservation age, like every other Australian, of 60 years of age. This will prevent circumstances where we have seen leaders of political parties in this place retire at the ripe old age of 38, or thereabouts, and they are still living on the taxpayers' purse.

        This brings into alignment the things that many of us who are not on the defined benefits scheme get criticised for: that we have fat juicy pensions and lifetime pensions as soon as we leave here. The fact is that we do not, but some do. This will bring it into line so that they cannot access it until they are 60. It will also be a big saving to the budget. I am sure the minister is not going to tell me exactly how much that is, but nonetheless I have moved the amendment standing in my name.

        6:47 pm

        Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (Victoria, Liberal Party, Special Minister of State) Share this | | Hansard source

        I made the point earlier on, prior to Senator Bernardi being present, that I would do each senator the courtesy of responding once to the group of amendments that they moved. Senator Bernardi, I did outline earlier to the chamber why the government did not support any change to the status of prime ministers in this particular bill. With respect to your proposed amendment regarding the superannuation scheme, I—like you—first entered this place after 2004. This is not a bill that is addressed in any way at the parliamentary superannuation scheme. The government does not believe it is appropriate to deal with any matter like that arising through the bill that is before the parliament that deals with expenses, the life gold pass and a number of other changes, as outlined.

        The CHAIR: The question is that the motion, as moved by Senator Bernardi, be agreed to.

        6:51 pm

        Photo of Pauline HansonPauline Hanson (Queensland, Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party) Share this | | Hansard source

        by leave—I move:

        (1) Schedule 1, item 3, page 4 (line 16) to page 5 (line 16), omit the item, substitute:

        3 Section 3

        Repeal the section, substitute:

        3 Simplified outline of this Act

            (a) there are limits on when a person must have entered Parliament, and when a person must have satisfied the qualifying period and retired from the Parliament, in order to become the holder of a Parliamentary Retirement Travel Entitlement; and

            (b) a Parliamentary Retirement Travel Entitlement expires after a limited period.

                Crimes (Superannuation Benefits) Act 1989
                Parliamentary Entitlements Legislation Amendment Act 2017

              (2) Schedule 1, item 8, page 6 (line 25), omit "the Prime Minister or".

              (3) Schedule 1, item 10, page 7 (lines 9 and 10), omit ", other than to members who become Prime Minister".

              (5) Schedule 1, item 12, page 7 (lines 22 to 24), omit ", unless the person is the Prime Minister, or a former Prime Minister, when he or she retires".

              (6) Schedule 1, item 12, page 7 (lines 29 to 31), omit ", unless the person is the Prime Minister, or a former Prime Minister, when he or she retires".

              (7) Schedule 1, item 12, page 8 (lines 1 and 2), omit "(other than for former Prime Ministers)".

              (8) Schedule 1, item 12, page 8 (lines 3 to 12), omit subsection 4C(1), substitute:

              Parliamentary Retirement Travel Entitlement expires in accordance with this section

              (1) If a person is a holder of a Parliamentary Retirement Travel Entitlement on 13 May 2014, or becomes a holder of a Parliamentary Retirement Travel Entitlement after that day, the person's Parliamentary Retirement Travel Entitlement expires in accordance with this section.

              (9) Schedule 1, item 12, page 8 (line 18), omit "subject to subsection (3),".

              (10) Schedule 1, item 12, page 8 (lines 25 and 26), omit subsection 4C(3).

              (11) Schedule 1, item 12, page 8 (lines 33 and 34), omit "but is not a former Prime Minister".

              (12) Schedule 1, item 12, page 9 (line 7), omit "a former Prime Minister or".

              (13) Schedule 1, item 12, page 9 (lines 16 and 17), omit "but is not a former Prime Minister".

              (14) Schedule 1, item 12, page 9 (line 32), omit "a former Prime Minister or".

              (15) Schedule 1, items 13 and 14, page 10 (lines 13 to 19), omit the items, substitute:

              13 Section 9 (heading)

              Repeal the heading, substitute:

              9 When return trip is in a year

              13A Subsection 9(1) (heading)

              Repeal the heading.

              13B Subsection 9(1)

              Omit "(1)".

              13C Subsections 9(2), (3) and (4)

              Repeal the subsections.

              14 Sections 9A and 9B

              Repeal the sections.

              (16) Schedule 1, items 16 and 17, page 10 (lines 23 to 28), omit the items, substitute:

              16 Subsection 10(1) (table items 2 and 3)

              Repeal the items.

              17 Subsection 10(3)

              Repeal the subsection.

              (17) Schedule 1, item 20, page 11 (lines 3 to 17), omit the item, substitute:

              20 Section 13

              Omit:

              (b) a pro-rata adjustment where a person becomes the spouse or de facto partner of a former member or member during a year;

              (c) a pro-rata adjustment where, during a year, a member satisfies the relevant qualifying period for the issue of a Life Gold Pass.

              substitute:

              (b) a pro-rata adjustment where the maximum term of a Parliamentary Retirement Travel Entitlement under subsection 4C(6) or (7) will end during a year.

              (18) Schedule 1, item 21, page 11 (lines 20 and 21), omit ", or former Prime Minister nominates spouse ordefactopartner,".

              (19) Schedule 1, items 23 and 24, page 12 (lines 1 to 6), omit the items, substitute:

              23 Subsection 14(1) (table item 2)

              Repeal the item.

              (20) Schedule 1, item 26, page 12 (lines 9 to 24), omit the item, substitute:

              26 Subsection 14(2)

              Repeal the subsection, substitute:

              (2) The number of domestic return trips for the purposes of the table in subsection (1) is the number of trips worked out using the formula in subsection (2A).

              26A Subsection 14(2A)

              Omit "paragraph (2) (a)", substitute "subsection (2)".

              (21) Schedule 1, item 28, page 13 (lines 18 to 31), omit subsection 18(3), substitute:

              Interaction between items 1 and 2 of the table in subsection (2) and the rules in section 4C about expiry of Parliamentary Retirement Travel Entitlements

              (3) If item 2 of the table in subsection (2) applies (whether or not item 1 also applies), then nothing in either of those items is to be taken to result in:

              (a) the person resuming being the holder of a Parliamentary Retirement Travel Entitlement; or

              (b) requiring a Parliamentary Retirement Travel Entitlement to be restored to the person;

              on the revocation of the order if the revocation takes effect after the nominal expiry time for the Parliamentary Retirement Travel Entitlement that the person held when the order was made.

              (22) Schedule 1, items 29 to 31, page 14 (lines 5 to 18), omit the items, substitute:

              29 Paragraph 21(a)

              Omit ", or the surviving spouse or de facto partner of a former member,".

              30 Section 21

              Omit ", or the surviving spouse or de facto partner, as the case may be," (wherever occurring).

              31 Section 22

              Repeal the section.

              (23) Schedule 1, items 33 and 34, page 14 (lines 21 to 26), omit the items, substitute:

              33 Subsection 28(2)

              Repeal the subsection.

              34 Paragraph 29(1 ) ( b)

              Omit ", or the person's spouse or de facto partner,".

              34A Subsection 29(1)

              Omit "traveller" (wherever occurring), substitute "person".

              (24) Schedule 1, item 39, page 18 (after line 20), at the end of the item, add:

              (5) Despite any other provision of this Act or the amended Act, if a travel entitlement of a former Prime Minister would (but for this subitem) expire at a time before the commencement of section 1 of the Parliamentary Entitlements Legislation Amendment Act 2017, the travel entitlement is instead taken to expire at that time.

              (25) Schedule 2, page 20 (after line 2), after item 5, insert:

              5A After section 5

              Insert:

              5A Retired former Prime Ministers

              (1) The Commonwealth must not provide any benefits under any administrative scheme to a person because the person is a retired former Prime Minister.

              (2) To avoid doubt, subsection (1) does not apply to superannuation.

              Regarding parliamentary entitlements, at present we still have five former prime ministers on the taxpayer payroll. I am moving amendments here to address the gold leaf that they and their spouses have for their travel. From 1 January to 30 June 2016, which is a matter of six months, former Prime Minister Gillard cost approximately $50,000; Mr Hawke, $62,000; Mr Howard, $112,000; Mr Keating, $62,000; and Mr Rudd, $63,000. That was for six months. The cost to the taxpayers is a drain. Former Prime Minister Rudd has an office in the same building as mine. I have never seen him there. I just think it is an expense that the taxpayers cannot afford any longer. A lot of these men are actually quite well-to-do and receive entitlements through their superannuation. I just do not believe that they should be afforded these entitlements, especially when Mr Hawke has been out of office for I think 26 years or so, and Mr Keating for around 21 years and Mr Howard 10 years. I think there has to be a limit to it. When Mr Macdonald said earlier that the people in this place now have a pay rise—

              The CHAIR: Senator Hanson, please refer to senators by their correct title. It is 'Senator Macdonald'.

              Sorry—Senator Macdonald—he made reference to the wages of former senators in this place and now we are receiving approximately $200,000 a year. The gold leaf that they were going to get—the travel entitlements—was all part of it. I have to say, when I first came into this parliament, in 1996, the wages at that time were about $85,000 a year. I did not come into this place thinking of the lurks and perks or that I was going to get a gold leaf. That was not a part of it. I ran for parliament to be a representative for the people. The wage was not a carrot, not the reason I am here, and I do not believe it should be. Things have changed over the years, and I believe that if we are going to ask the people of Australia to pull their belts in and we are going to take money out of their pockets or pull back on essential services for them then we as leaders of this nation should show by example.

              As I said, former prime ministers are quite well-to-do. Some of them are multimillionaires, if not all of them. And I do not believe that after years of not being in service—and a lot of them were actually thrown out by the people, because they did not want them there any longer, and the state this country was put in under two of them especially, former Prime Minister Gillard and former Prime Minister Rudd, who have a lot to answer for in terms of the economy of this country.

              6:55 pm

              Photo of Don FarrellDon Farrell (SA, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC) Share this | | Hansard source

              I have not got up in respect of every amendment, but I thought I would make my general comments about all of them, because they are all relatively similar and all deal with relatively similar issues. In respect of removing the entitlement of former prime ministers, the opposition will not support any of the amendments in relation to that. I think there are differences between retired prime ministers and all other federal politicians. I think they have a range of responsibilities that other politicians do not have, and I think we should recognise that by continuing to provide them with the Gold Pass.

              I cannot leave Senator Macdonald's comments of denigration of former Prime Minister Gillard without responding. I think they were tasteless comments by Senator Macdonald. And I think as time goes by Prime Minister Gillard's term will be seen as a golden era for Australian prime ministers and we will look back fondly to her time as not only the first Australian female Prime Minister but a terrific person to govern this country. I think it would be fair to say that she was the only person in the parliament before last who could have governed this country for those three years. And, as I said, I think the comments regarding her time as Prime Minister have been tasteless.

              The opposition is not supporting any of the amendments, so I will not need to jump up again in respect of the remaining ones. We have a set of changes that I think increase the transparency and the responsibility of members of parliament in respect of a range of work expenses. I think they need to be looked at collectively. We have a bill that deals with the Gold Pass. We have a new body that is going to set up to administer work expenses for members of parliament. And shortly, I expect, we will receive a further set of legislation to deal with the changes that the so-called Conde report has dealt with. Collectively it is the hope of the opposition that these will deal with all of the issues that have been raised, both by the events surrounding former Speaker Bishop and the more recent events surrounding Minister Ley. We have encouraged the government—in fact, I think it would be fair to say that we have pushed the government—to deal with these issues. And we believe that when all of these pieces of legislation are passed then collectively they will do what is intended—that is, restore the faith of members of the public in the roles and responsibilities of members of parliament. As I said, the opposition will not be supporting any of the amendments to either this legislation or the next piece of legislation.

              6:59 pm

              Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (Victoria, Liberal Party, Special Minister of State) Share this | | Hansard source

              As I outlined earlier, Senator Hanson, the government does not support the proposed changes to impact on former prime ministers. I will not again go through in great detail the examples of public service or the rationale for that, but the government strongly believes that they have a unique place, and I think we can refer to that with the examples I used before. With respect to a couple of the comments that Senator Macdonald made earlier, retrospective legislation is not completely unknown to this place. This is not the first piece in my 8½ years in parliament. It is reserved for exceptional circumstances, and, as I have explained, the decision that the government and I took over summer to abolish the Life Gold Pass immediately is an example of rebuilding public trust in the expenses framework, of which the next bill is also a very important part.

              7:01 pm

              Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

              I do not really want to delay the chamber any further—I am conscious that many senators want to escape and go back to their homes—but I cannot let Senator Gallagher's response about Ms Gillard go unchallenged.

              Photo of Don FarrellDon Farrell (SA, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC) Share this | | Hansard source

              Point of order!

              The CHAIR: That is correct; it was Senator Farrell.

              Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

              That is an unforgivable error that I do apologise for, Senator Farrell. History will show what Ms Gillard did or did not do.

              Photo of Don FarrellDon Farrell (SA, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC) Share this | | Hansard source

              I agree with that.

              Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

              It really was a continuation of the downward spiral started by Mr Rudd. Whilst you will have your views, I think Ms Gillard first appointed you to the ministry before you graciously stood aside so that Senator Wong could take top spot on the ticket, and then, as a result of Ms Gillard's popularity, you could not even get two senators up from South Australia.

              Photo of Louise PrattLouise Pratt (WA, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment, Climate Change and Water) Share this | | Hansard source

              This is not relevant. Get to the point.

              Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

              Sorry?

              The CHAIR: Order! Please continue, Senator Macdonald.

              I would love to hear the interjection and see what it said.

              Photo of Louise PrattLouise Pratt (WA, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment, Climate Change and Water) Share this | | Hansard source

              No, you don't.

              Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

              We will perhaps agree to disagree on that, but I think history will be the judge. I am not going to support this amendment. It is in line with the other amendments that have been moved, but the parliament has clearly indicated its position. I go back to my original position I stated in my second reading contribution and in the amendments. I think prime ministers should have some entitlements. They have had a specific place in history. I do think, for the reasons I gave, citing the case of Mr Frank Ford, that there should be some curtailment on them, but prime ministers should have some support, and so I will not be supporting this.

              I again highlight my position in that, if it is good enough for other parliamentarians, it is good enough for former prime ministers. I think history will show that this retrospective taking away of rights was wrong. It should not be allowed in our society. If the minister indicates there has been serious retrospective legislation before this chamber in the last eight years then I am sorry I have missed it. I was aware of it in the proposals to alter superannuation just at the end of last year. I became aware that there were two retrospective elements of it. I told the Treasurer privately and subsequently indicated publicly that I would be voting against retrospectivity. I am pleased that the Treasurer got the message, not only from me but from others as well, and we voted against it. If the minister is correct that there has been other clearly retrospective legislation passed then I am sorry I missed it, because I also would have voted against that.

              It reminds me that the Scrutiny of Bills Committee, in looking at this legislation, made a comment about it being retrospective back to March 2014. I have a high regard for the Scrutiny of Bills Committee. I myself used to chair that committee once, and I know the focus that committee has on retrospective legislation. I have to say in this instance I do not know what happened to the committee. They missed the point entirely. It was not the retrospectivity back to 2014 that was an issue; it was the retrospectivity back to 1918 that I thought was the issue, and I am a bit disappointed that the Scrutiny of Bills Committee did not raise that issue. Perhaps that committee is comprised of government and opposition members who knew what their masters wanted in this particular bill and reported accordingly, but it is disappointing to me.

              The CHAIR: The question is that amendments (1)-(3) and (5)-(25) on sheet 8071 moved together by Senator Hanson be agreed to.

              7:13 pm

              Photo of Nick XenophonNick Xenophon (SA, Nick Xenophon Team) Share this | | Hansard source

              I move amendment (1) on sheet 8077, standing in my name:

              (1) Schedule 2, item 7, page 23 (lines 31 to 33), omit subsection 10C(4), substitute:

              (4) The recipient is liable to pay the Commonwealth, by way of penalty for the contravention of section 7A (the current contravention), an amount equal to:

              (a) if the recipient has not contravened that section, or has contravened that section once, during the period of 12 months immediately preceding the day on which the claim to which the current contravention relates is made—200% of the amount to which this section applies; or

              (b) if the recipient has contravened that section 2 or more times during the period of 12 months immediately preceding the day on which the claim to which the current contravention relates is made—400% of the amount to which this section applies.

              This amendment, which I am moving on behalf of my colleagues, was also moved in the other place by my colleague Rebekha Sharkie, the member for Mayo. This is about giving the legislation some teeth, some effectiveness, because unless you have an adequate penalty regime it raises real issues about whether this will have real teeth and do what it is meant to do in terms of ensuring compliance with the rules.

              This amendment provides for a loading. Then, if you breach the rules, if you make a claim for a payment that you should not have made, you are liable to pay at least double the amount to which the section applies. This is in subsection (b) of the amendment:

              … if the recipient has contravened that section 2 or more times during the period of 12 months immediately preceding the day on which the claim to which the current contravention relates is made—400% of the amount to which this section applies—

              is payable. In other words, if you are a repeat offender, you pay more, just like other laws that are enforced, whether it is traffic offences or other offences. If you are a repeat offender, you should pay more. There is nothing like having a financial penalty to keep all politicians on their toes in order to ensure they comply with the rules.

              Indeed, given what is happening with the legislation that we will shortly be debating, I presume, to do with an expenses tribunal which allows for determinations to be made or advice to be sought in respect of expenses, there ought to be no excuse for members of parliament to make a wrongful claim. That is why this amendment is about giving the legislation real teeth. The current penalty of a 25 per cent loading is akin to being slapped with a piece of wet lettuce leaf. It is not effective. There is nothing like a financial penalty, given human nature, to keep people on their toes to make sure they comply. That is why this amendment is so important.

              7:16 pm

              Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (Victoria, Liberal Party, Special Minister of State) Share this | | Hansard source

              I will be brief in my response. Senator Xenophon rightly gives credit to the fact that this bill needs to be seen as part of a wider suite of measures. It is the first of several bills coming before parliament, the second of which will be coming forward later this evening. This bill includes a 25 per cent penalty. I think it is important to take note, at this point, of the thousands of claims that are made for flights, for allowance to travel and for other expenses that are conducted by members of parliament in their work. We have to recognise that this is a large country. This is not the United States. We do not want to move our members of parliament and our families to Washington or, in this case, to Canberra, and we do want our members of parliament to be accessible to their communities and, in the case of the Senate, accessible to their state.

              I actually think that, in the context of the scale of the work that the parliament undertakes and the scale of the travel, it is important that we keep the number of examples that Senator Xenophon is referring to in context. It is important that there be a penalty provision, but the overwhelming number of claims made is entirely appropriate. I will also say that I actually do not think—respectfully, Senator Xenophon—that the threat of a financial penalty is the largest or most important way of ensuring compliance. As I have mentioned previously and we can discuss with the next legislation, with the government's commitment and the Prime Minister's commitment to move to monthly disclosure in a more easily searchable format and in the short term to move to quarterly disclosure as opposed to six-monthly disclosure, the culture of looking for the public standard as well as the rules is actually going to be best met by that disclosure regime.

              Quite frankly, I do not think that the issue of what you may call a fine or a penalty is as significant as how most people take their public reputations. I think what we will see and we have already started to see is a cultural change from what was the case decades ago, which reflects much greater transparency because we release more information than many comparable parliaments. This parliament releases a great deal more information about the expenses of its members than, as far as I am aware, any state parliament does. We release an extraordinary amount of information, and that is an observation that I think the parliament should be proud of. I think most people would value their reputation as more important than they would potentially a few hundred dollars.

              So, respectfully, the government will be opposing this amendment, but I urge people to see this particular bill as part of a suite of bills that the Prime Minister has announced that are overhauling the entire system in the most substantial overhaul in decades.

              7:19 pm

              Photo of Nick XenophonNick Xenophon (SA, Nick Xenophon Team) Share this | | Hansard source

              I thank the minister for his response. I just want to make this observation and perhaps put just one short question to the minister in relation to that. The minister acknowledges that there is a penalty, a 25 per cent penalty, for a claim. He is right that, if there is more transparency, public disclosure and, I guess, embarrassment if an MP or a senator makes a claim that is a wrongful claim, for want of a better word, that too is a sanction in itself. But I ask the minister this: does the minister concede that, where a claim has been made that ought not to have been made, there are expenses involved and there ought to be some level of user pays, in a sense, for the extra work that the department does—that public servants do—to deal with the mess of a claim? It can often be more than the 25 per cent uplift in relation to the penalty that is imposed that is contemplated at the moment.

              7:20 pm

              Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (Victoria, Liberal Party, Special Minister of State) Share this | | Hansard source

              Respectfully, Senator Xenophon, I think that is a different rationale than what you were proposing earlier, which was a penalty.

              Photo of Nick XenophonNick Xenophon (SA, Nick Xenophon Team) Share this | | Hansard source

              It is an alternative rationale, but, the fact is that, if we have a cost—

              Senator Seselja interjecting

              Whatever Senator Seselja said, I will just ignore it.

              Photo of Zed SeseljaZed Seselja (ACT, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Social Services and Multicultural Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

              It was good!

              Photo of Nick XenophonNick Xenophon (SA, Nick Xenophon Team) Share this | | Hansard source

              I am sure it was not helpful! I think we all want to get home. I think the minister's office is contemplating a 1.28 am finish, but I am sure that it will not be that. Does the minister acknowledge, though, that there are additional administrative costs involved where a claim has been made that has been a wrongful claim and that there are additional costs to the Commonwealth as a result of dealing with that? I just want to get acknowledgement of that. I will not take it any further.

              7:21 pm

              Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (Victoria, Liberal Party, Special Minister of State) Share this | | Hansard source

              Briefly, Senator Xenophon, given the sheer scale of the number of travel and expense claims that the department processes, which are in the hundreds a day, I think it would be virtually impossible to account for that in any way. But I will say that, as we move to the independent authority which we will be debating next and as we move on to future legislation that will fully implement some changes as announced by the Conde review, as Senator Farrell outlined, we do expect to see substantial efficiencies in this process as we move to a monthly disclosure regime because the process at the moment is rather antiquated and reflects very old IT that is particularly labour intensive.

              The CHAIR: The question is that amendment (1) as moved by Senator Xenophon on sheet 8077 be agreed to.

              Bill agreed to.

              Bill reported without amendments; report adopted.