SENATOR SCOTT RYAN: Australians are entitled to expect Parliamentarians spend taxpayers’ money efficiently, effectively and ethically.
On January 13, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced that the Government would establish an Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority. The Bill to establish this authority as a statutory authority will be introduced in the House of Representatives later this week.
The introduction of this Bill continues the Coalition’s progress towards the most extensive reforms to parliamentarians’ work expenses in more than two decades.
Australians will welcome the speed with which this new authority has been established. It has taken less than a month, from the announcement by the Prime Minister, to legislation being introduced into Parliament.
We will also introduce a Bill to abolish the Life Gold Pass for eligible, former parliamentarians, apart from former prime ministers and their spouses. This legislation has been amended and updated to affect the date of abolition to the moment the legislation becomes active, rather than the previous proposal that phased out after six years.
We have the opportunity and we are seizing it, to show Australians that the current generation of politicians is determined to subject themselves to higher standards than every before.
JOURNALIST: How much backlash are you getting over the gold pass, I understand there are former and current MPs who are not happy about it going?
SENATOR RYAN: Without going into discussions in the Party Room, I have received nothing but very strong support from my colleagues.
JOURNALIST: Can I ask about the legislation to be introduced this week, will that include all the Conde recommendations that need to be legislated and is there further legislation that is required for those announcements that Malcolm Turnbull has made?
SENATOR RYAN: So, over the last three weeks we’ve prioritized the legislation to set up the independent authority. As we implement the changes that came out of the Conde-Tune review, having the authority being set up at the same time will ensure we have an independent voice assisting us to do that.
There will be further legislation coming forward, about which I am consulting other parties at the moment, to fully implement the changes recommended. That’s a matter of weeks away.
JOURNALIST: So how long do you think this whole process will take? The Government did accept most of these recommendations in principle last March, do you think all the changes that have been flagged by the Government will be in-train in six months, less time?
SENATOR RYAN: I would hope that if the Parliament supports the legislation this session, then the new authority would be independent, established and up and running at the start of the financial year, first of July.
JOURNALIST: Are there any hiccups with Labor or the cross benchers?
SENATOR RYAN: I’ll let other parties and other spokespeople speak for themselves. But I will say, in the consultations I’ve had over the last week in putting this together, with respect to the Life Gold Pass, that there has been support from across the Parliament. Obviously other parties will go through their processes, but I would hope we can progress the legislation around the authority and the legislation implementing the Conde reforms in the coming weeks, this session.
JOURNALIST: How much is the gold pass going to save?
SENATOR RYAN: I understand the savings is approximately $5 million over the forward estimates.
JOURNALIST: And why are you speaking, surely the problem is the people in Parliament rorting the system, rather than people who have gone and retired?
SENATOR RYAN: The announcement that was made in May 2014, there was a phased elimination of the Life Gold Pass for those who already had it. My view, and the view of the Government, is that the proposal to allow it to run for another six years for those who are eligible and retired at the conclusion of this Parliament, it was better to simply move swiftly. If we are abolishing the Life Gold Pass, to abolish it from the time the legislation takes effect.
JOURNALIST: Why has it taken almost three years to follow through on this pledge?
SENATOR RYAN: I can’t speak to that. I can only speak to my six months in this role. In the last couple of weeks of Parliament last year we had a very busy schedule, and the Government obviously prioritized the Registered Organisations Bill and the Australian Building and Construction Commission Bill. The fact that we have brought this forward in the first week of the year, I think shows our priority and commitment to this particular measure.
One more question, given the red bells are ringing.
JOURNALIST: The PM has said he won’t take up the entitlements reserved for former PMs, is there any discussion given to ripping it away from former PMs?
SENATOR RYAN: I’ll let former Prime Ministers speak for themselves.
JOURNALIST: Foreign political donations, any movement on that?
SENATOR RYAN: I expect a report from the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters in the first week of March. I understand there will be hearings held into donations matters in coming weeks. Excuse me, I can’t afford to miss a red bell on my first day back.