Can we join the bureaucrats feeding frenzy?

Former MPs clock up $800,000 in travel

Dan Harrison and Yuko Narushima

November 26, 2010

Controversial schemes to cover the travel expenses of former politicians and their spouses cost taxpayers more than $800,000 in the first six months of this year.

Reports tabled in Parliament yesterday revealed the ”life gold pass”, which provides unlimited domestic air travel for life to some long-serving former MPs and their spouses, cost more than $625,000 in the first half of the year.

Among the biggest users of the scheme was the former speaker and National party leader Ian Sinclair, who clocked up more than $20,000 worth of flights.

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Other heavy users included the former Howard government ministers John Herron and Mal Brough, who took flights worth more than $17,500 each. The former Labor treasurer John Dawkins’s travel cost almost $15,000.

As the surviving spouse of the late Sir Alexander Downer, who was a life gold-pass holder, Lady (Mary) Downer (mother of the former foreign minister Alexander Downer) was also entitled to travel, taking flights worth $7835.

The so-called ”severance travellers” scheme, which provides free travel for shorter-term former MPs, cost the taxpayer $148,412 over the same period.

In a separate scheme, taxpayers also paid $21,514 for flights by the former prime ministers Malcolm Fraser, Bob Hawke, Paul Keating and John Howard.

There is a widespread expectation that travel schemes will be scrapped or made less generous as part of an overhaul of parliamentary entitlements.

A panel chaired by the former senior public servant Barbara Belcher conducted a review and handed its report to the government in April. It was referred to a cabinet subcommittee this week, but the Special Minister of State, Gary Gray, has said he hopes to release the government’s initial response before the end of the year.



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