Review of Parliamentary Entitlements Committee Report April 2010
Appendix 2: Issues Raised in Submissions
In October 2009, the Special Minister of State confirmed that public submissions were being invited by the Committee for the Review of Parliamentary Entitlements. A range of individuals and groups, including government agencies, former and current parliamentarians and members of the public, made submissions to the review.
This appendix summarises the main issues raised in submissions relevant to the committee’s terms of reference. The issues are divided into two sections: Role and Remuneration of the Australian Parliamentarian; and Limitations of the Current Framework.
Submissions covered a range of issues relating to the role of a parliamentarian and the difficulties in determining the appropriate ‘package’ of items that the various roles and responsibilities warrant.
- There are uncertainties about the employment status of senators and members and how they should be remunerated when compared to the rest of the community.
- A parliamentarian’s role is like that of no other worker and a work value study should be undertaken to determine fair remuneration.
- The current remuneration for federal parliamentarians is too low, deterring people from entering and resulting in others leaving rather than being voted out. The pool of talent may become limited to people coming from lower paying professions or those who are independently wealthy.
- Public criticism of current salary and entitlements for senators and members is unfair and public myths about entitlements need to be countered.
- Appropriate remuneration of federal parliamentarians is critical to the independence of the legislative arm of our democracy.
- If wage justice is to be achieved and maintained, parliamentary salaries should be linked to a group such as the public service.
- Full powers of parliamentary salary determination should be returned to the Remuneration Tribunal or given to an independent arbiter.
- If all remuneration and entitlements matters were fully transparent, members of the public may consider membership of parliament as a reputable and desirable career.
- Parliamentarians do not have access to the workers’ compensation system should they become injured whilst performing their duties.
- Publicly funded post-retirement travel enables parliamentarians to continue undertaking community services but should be confined to engagements with a clear post-service relationship.
- Provision of publicly funded post-employment travel may have been once acceptable but it no longer reflects contemporary standards.
- Former parliamentarians value the Life Gold Pass highly, more for the recognition of long service it symbolises than for its face value in travel entitlements.
- The principle of retrospectivity is enshrined in the Australian Constitution and was further supported by the High Court. Retrospective removal should not apply to established entitlements.
- Entitlements are inherently subject to change and there should be no objection to applying any reductions in entitlements to those currently enjoying them.
- As a general principle, it is not appropriate that entitlements provided to parliamentarians to assist them in performing their duties and responsibilities should be able to be used to support re‐election activities. Such entitlements are not available to others seeking election.
- Performance of parliamentary duties is often inseparable from campaigning activity and hence natural advantages that cannot be removed.
- Changing to a fixed term for federal parliaments may reduce the government’s benefit of incumbency.
Submissions also dealt with issues relating to the limitations of the current framework and made suggestions for improvement.
- There are over 300 separate entitlements codes in Finance’s current management system to capture the range of entitlements currently available.
- Given the complexity of the parliamentary entitlements framework, it is not surprising that the administrative framework is also complex and that there are a number of agencies involved.
- The range of sources of guidance may be confusing and in some cases at least one step removed from the legal foundations of the entitlements.
- An issue that continues to be a source of confusion for senators and members is the split of responsibilities across a range of departments.
- There is evidence that the general community expects that there will be transparency for the use of taxpayer funds, and presumably the same applies to the use parliamentary entitlements.
- Public scrutiny deters misuse and reduces the need for prescriptive regulation.
- There should be more clearly articulated guidelines for entitlements.
- The future development of parliamentary entitlements should occur publicly with the full costs of any proposed changes known at the time of the decision.
- Every entitlement provided to parliamentarians and the expenditure against it should be on the public record – preferably online for easy public access.
- The new framework should be captured in the fewest possible number of separate legislative instruments to lessen the likelihood of the overlap and inconsistency that prevails under the current entitlements regime.
- The legislation needs to be clear that the purpose of these entitlements is to enable parliamentarians to effectively perform their respective parliamentary, constituency and ministerial duties.
- Bodies such as the ANAO or the Australian Taxation Office should be used to test the appropriate use of parliamentary entitlements.
- There would be value in defining the key terms in entitlements and ensuring that the scope and any limits on entitlements are clearly spelled out. This clarity will be of benefit to parliamentarians, to those administering entitlements and to the broader public in terms of the transparency of entitlements.
- There is not a single fixed schedule of entitlements that would suit all senators and members. Their needs differ and the system needs the flexibility to be able to meet these differing needs.
- The system would benefit from greater flexibility and adaptability. This could be achieved with a budget-based entitlements model where there are few, if any, entitlements that have no financial limitation.
- Self-managed budgets would allow senators and members to allocate expenditure in the areas that best serve the needs of their electorate.
- There needs to be flexibility in the travel provisions to better use resources by minimising the time parliamentarians spend travelling and maximising the time they spend undertaking electorate and parliamentary business.
- Allowing aggregation of some entitlements would improve availability and representation, particularly within large electorates.
- There is a need for a more family friendly work environment and options to adjust the travel provisions to provide better support for carers of younger children.
Appendix 1: Parliamentary Entitlements in Other Jurisdictions
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