Federal Greens Senator Richard Di Natale has scorned both the government and opposition for denying motions to disclose how politicians spend their entitlements.
This comes as one of the most generous retirement perks for federal MPs, the life gold travel pass, was unanimously axed by the Senate on Thursday despite objections by coalition Senator Ian MacDonald.
The major parties blocked two Greens motions on Thursday that would have required politicians to produce receipts to show how they spent their $32,000 Electoral Allowances and whether they kept any of the money.
The debate on gold pass and the Electorate Allowance were highly contested topics, with Senator Di Natale saying Liberal and Labor Senators’ priorities were to line their own pockets.
“If the Labor and Liberal parties were genuine about restoring the public’s trust in our political system, they would have supported this,” he said after the decision.
“Instead, they’ve shown the public exactly where their priorities really lie – inside their own wallets.”
The movement was categorically rejected in the Senate, with a 15-46 vote in favour of the negative.
Speaking to The New Daily, Senator Di Natale said he was disappointed that the major parties stood together to block to motions, but was not surprised.
“Whenever there’s a scandal involving entitlements you hear a lot of noise from the old parties about fixing the broken system but ultimately they’re the ones who benefit from keeping the status quo,” he said.
He added the Greens party aimed to move amendments on Thursday night to force MPs not to take the allowance as salary instead of “treating them like an unregulated $32,000 a year bonus.”
“The only way we can ensure that happens is to close the loopholes and make sure that the penalties for violating the rules have teeth.”
Special Minister of State, Senator Scott Ryan, said the passing of the Parliamentary Entitlements Legislation Amendment Bill 2017, which contained the changes that allowed up to 10 free domestic flights for former MPs, would be abolished except for former prime ministers.
In a statement Mr Scott said the gold pass was going “the way of the dodo”, adding that voters expected MPs to spend money “efficiently and ethically”.
Just like the dodo, the life gold pass for former MPs is now a thing of the past https://t.co/4UHPxnfmBb
— Senator Scott Ryan (@SenatorRyan) February 16, 2017
Meanwhile, new laws to establish an expenses watchdog to hold federal politicians to account over how they spend taxpayer money also cleared Parliament.
The Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority will audit and report on parliamentary work expenses as well as provide advice, monitor and administer claims for travel expenses and allowances by parliamentarians and their staff.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced the changes in January amid public outrage following revelations senior ministers were using taxpayer funds to attend parties and sporting events.
The expenses scandal claimed the scalp of former health minister Sussan Ley after it was revealed she bought an investment property on a taxpayer-funded trip.
Politicians using benefits to top up salaries
In his statement to the Senate, Mr Di Natale reported the Greens knew of several politicians who used the benefits to top up their salaries.
“At the moment is it entirely possible, indeed we know some members of parliament have used it in this way, as a way to ensure that people top up their salaries.
One Nation leader Pauline Hanson and now-Australian Conservatives leader Cory Bernardi were in agreement that the fewer post retirement perks for politicians the better.
“The age of entitlements is over,” Senator Hanson said.
Gold Pass axing ‘pure populism’: Senator
Senator Macdonald, in objecting to the retrospective nature of the change, and insisting “elderly retired” politicians should not be stripped of an entitlement they were promised in the past, accused colleagues of choosing to go with the “populist approach”.
“If we’re to follow the populist approach, why bother with these hated, money-grabbing, self-serving politicians at all?” he said.
“Perhaps Hitler and Stalin or Idi Amin had the right idea — don’t bother about a parliament and you don’t have to bother about those pesky parliamentarians at all.”
– with AAP/ABC