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   Mar 13

Cory Bernardi, Ian Macdonald want to boot former PMs off Life Gold Pass

Cory Bernardi wants former PMs booted off the Life Gold Pass Photo: Alex Ellinghausen Senator Ian Macdonald Photo: Andrew Meares
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Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott would lose access to their taxpayer-funded business-class travel under changes being pushed by both rogue Liberal Senator Ian Macdonald and government defector Cory Bernardi.

Senator Macdonald – who made national headlines last week when he defended parliamentary entitlements, saying politicians are not particularly well paid – has written to party leaders to flag amendments to his own government’s bills to abolish the Life Gold Pass and establish a new independent expenses authority.

In the letters, Senator Macdonald says he will seek to scrap an exemption that gives ‘s former prime ministers continued access to the notorious pass, which entitles them to 10 free business-class return flights a year.

If that fails, he will seek to limit the pass to prime ministers who served a certain number of years in the top job – meaning short-serving prime ministers like Mr Rudd, Ms Gillard and Mr Abbott would likely lose out.

Senator Macdonald has not made it clear whether he will cross the floor if his amendments fail.

Senator Bernardi – who quit the Liberals last week to form his own conservative party – has proposed similar changes. He says no prime minister who serves less than a single term should get the perk.

“We have had a revolving door of prime ministers,” Senator Bernardi told the ABC. “I do not know why anybody who serves for less than four years in the job of prime minister should receive access to a gold pass.

“We need to clean up Canberra and this is a step in that direction.”

Senator Bernardi said he did not co-ordinate his amendments with Senator Macdonald but is “happy to work with anyone to get the positive policy outcomes ns expect and need”.

The changes are set to attract the support of the Greens, with leader Richard Di Natale declaring parliament should get rid of the gold pass “rort” altogether.

“We should have politicians leading by example and there is no more important role model in the n parliament than the prime minister,” he said.

Senator Macdonald will also seek to widen the scope of the entitlements authority to include all people who have their “remunerations or emolument directly or indirectly paid by the n taxpayer”, including public servants and judicial officers.

Senator Macdonald – who is paid a salary of $200,000 a year as a backbencher – was one of two Coalition MPs who used a partyroom meeting last week to speak against Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s entitlements crackdown.

The Life Gold Pass once offered former MPs unlimited travel at taxpayers’ expense. Changes in 2002 limited that to 25 return flights a year and further changes in 2012 limited it to 10 return flights.

The Gillard government scrapped it for any MPs elected after 2012.

Under Mr Turnbull’s plan it will now be fully abolished for all but former prime ministers and their spouses. Mr Turnbull says he will not use it.

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