Government axes lifetime free flights for former politicians

By David Flynn, February 7 2017

Retired politicians will no longer be able to enjoy free taxpayer-funded business class flights, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull moving to axe a perk which has been prized by the pollies but despised by the public.

A tightening of entitlements for federal politicians will see the 'Gold Pass' travel card scrapped immediately, despite the protestations of some Coalition MPs who are perhaps eying their own retirement in the not-too-distant future.

Some 200 former MPs will be hit by the changes, saving taxpayers an estimated $1.5 million per year.

Former prime ministers will still be entitled to free business class travel, although multi-millionaire Turnbull has said he won't be doing so once he leaves office.

PREVIOUS | Australia’s federal MPs have been granted a short-term respite for their cherished VIP 'gold travel pass’ which entitles them to a lifetime of free business class flights funded by the taxpayer.

The contentious Life Gold Pass provides retired members of the Federal Parliament and their partners with 10 free return domestic business class flights each year.

Despite plans to scrap the prized perk in the 2014 budget, the necessary bill won't be rolled out by the Turnbull government until 2017.

"Special Minister of State Scott Ryan said last month he planned to reintroduce the Abbott government-era bill to kill off the controversial entitlement before Parliament rose for the Christmas break", reports The Sydney Morning Herald.

"But now with just four sitting days remaining, Senator Ryan concedes it's unlikely the bill will emerge – even though it would sail through both chambers with the support of Labor, the Greens and the crossbench."

An estimated 200 former MPs are said to currently enjoy the scheme, which puts the 'free' into frequent flyer at annual cost of $1.5 million to the taxpayer.

The 2014 budget bill intended to axe the Life Gold Pass after January 1, 2020 except for former prime ministers, and retrospectively remove it from the wallets of MPs who retired before May 30, 2011.

The current allocation of ten free trips per year for a former MP's life was to be pared back to ten annual trips for only the first three years of retirement, although ex-ministers will see that period doubled to six years. In addition, those trips would no longer include the partners of former MPs.

David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Jan 2013

Total posts 246

Every leadership course I've ever done, (which is a few,) has always made some reference to leading by example. I refuse to call politicians leaders because of perks and policies like this. I'm not suggesting that MP's should have to pay for travel they do as part of being an MP.

 

However, when we're all told to tighten our belts and yet hear stories like a certain former Minister forking out nearly $13K of tax payer money to fly their kids business class for a domestic short haul trip, it just stinks.

 

It seems the real start to those speeches should have been 'The Age of Entitlement is Over (Except if You are or Have Ever Been an MP)'.

undertheradar Banned
undertheradar Banned

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 662

Clearly not a 'performance based' perk.. Hey, if I was given this perk  just for 'turning up', and consequently NOT turning up LOL.  I wouldn't be in a rush to have it abolished either. Getting something you don't deserve, now that's Australian democracy in action ROFL. Of course this is just my humble opinion :)

Don't hate me for saying this but I thought I'd put it out there:


Would you rather pay for politicians' business class flights or a person's drug habit via Centrelink?

P.S: I'm not passing judgement or questioning the morality and ethics of either choices, in case some of you get so repulsed by the question.

Mal
Mal

14 Jun 2013

Total posts 360

I don't see why any taxpayer should have to pay for either.

I think it is important to pay politicians well to attract the right talent and to keep corruption and graft at bay. Payment  may extend beyond the usual salary that they draw.

Of late, both in this country and in the UK MPs have been easy and politically correct targets of attack. In some cases such attacks have been warranted. In others, the rules by which MPs operate have been unclear and subject to non-formalised customary practices, which may not stand up in the court of contemporary public opinion.

I do not necessarily mind paying for politicians if I knew they were talented individuals who held proper jobs prior to being MPs and are not functionaries of political parties, who have slithered and emolliated themselves into the cabal of power.

11 Mar 2012

Total posts 294

Well the talent isn't being attracted thanks to the two party duopoly that was further entrenched after the microparty hassles a few years ago.

As mentioned above we were lectured on how the Age of Entitlement is over.  As per the first post one of the key parts of leadership is leading by example.

This is a good first step but there are plenty more perks that need to go IMO.

09 Jan 2016

Total posts 44

Paying the drug habit is WAY cheaper to the tax payer. 

27 Sep 2011

Total posts 34

Not to mention that we pay for a lot of middle class people's drug habits through medicare

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer Platinum

07 Feb 2013

Total posts 558

Seeing as there is no connection between the 2 you are clearly trying to frame the issue, most of us one here are a little smarter than to fall for something so simple ;)

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Mar 2015

Total posts 8

Once a politician stops serving the public, the public doesn't owe them anything. They already get an overly generous pension. If you go to a bar you are entitled to have a drink, when you leave they don't owe you a beer.

16 Mar 2014

Total posts 19

It's not all that it seems. As a former recipient of a gold pass, I and other retired MPs have not been able to access the gold pass travel since the May14 budget despite the legislation not being passed.

British Airways - Executive Club

28 Mar 2014

Total posts 66

Why not? And how has it affected your flying habits?
sgb
sgb

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

30 Nov 2015

Total posts 745

How unfortunate.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer Platinum

07 Feb 2013

Total posts 558

My heart bleeds for you , poor soul!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Aug 2014

Total posts 513

Wonder if other countries also have these issues

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Mar 2016

Total posts 27

Even when legislation is passed in 2017 Ministers still get 6 years & MP's 3 years FF travel which I do think is a little rich but doesn't include spouses, the current circumstance which is for life & spouses get to share, at taxpayers expense is 'beyond the pail'.  

10 Feb 2016

Total posts 10

I think there was a case for free airline travel via the gold pass once.  (It was orginally intended for train travel, of course.) Far fewer people flew interstate in the 60s,  70s and 80s, and our political class was one of the few groups that did this, regularly, as part of their work.  Since the entry of Virgin into the market however, there's been downward pressure on prices, and greater competition, meaning domestic flights are a much more everyday occurrence.  I think the onus on the taxpayer to pay for these flights once they leave their jobs, has ended as a result.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

30 Nov 2016

Total posts 2

Simply disgraceful, should be scrapped along with their other lopsided benefits for pensions.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 326

Those who were elected from 2004 onwards are on a completely different pension/super scheme, roughly the same as public servants.

31 Jan 2017

Total posts 9

I feel that they should be entitled to 1 free flight per calendar year on Jetstar or Tigerair in cattle class only....that way they get to mix & mingle with the people they deserted.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Apr 2012

Total posts 303

Seriously don't they earn enough in their lifetime from taxpayers ?! Pay for your own flights like everyone else scabs..

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

07 Feb 2015

Total posts 130

Maybe this is the real reason why Bernardi left LNP, spoiled kid spat the dummy, Ha!
  • Does anyone know why these generous perks were offered in the first place?
  • If such perks are deemed inappropriate, how did they get instituted in the first place?
  • Has the relationship between the people governing and the governed changed, such that it is deemed these benefits are not longer appropriate?
  • Has the relationship between the media and the governing classes changed, such that the media is more willing to expose questionable but long-standing practices?

If we want politicians to be accountable, should we expect the implementation of a framework to enable regular and periodic review of entitlements against current public standards, so that politicians are not shot down for adopting standard long-standing practices?

Seems to me that is the more mature and future-proof way of dealing with this, rather than the current witch hunt and virtue signalling.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Oct 2014

Total posts 492

Oops .. that'll terminate quite a few 'platinum' level FF memberships, I suspect.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Aug 2014

Total posts 513

The only good thing Turnbull's done since he came to office. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer Platinum

07 Feb 2013

Total posts 558

And here everyone was being civil until you had to turn it political, are you so devoid of ideas you have to stoop to this? One word - Sad.
"A tightening of entitlements for federal politicians will see the 'Gold Pass' travel card scrapped immediately, despite the protestations of some Coalition MPs who are perhaps eying their own retirement in the not-too-distant future."

Surely it isn't only Coalition MPs who complained about this. Its not like lush benefits for pollies are exclusively advocated by one side. 

Mal
Mal

14 Jun 2013

Total posts 360

The axing of the Gold Travel Pass was pushed by the PM and it was MPs in his own party room speaking against it.

07 Feb 2017

Total posts 1

"An estimated 200 former MPs are said to currently enjoy the scheme, which puts the 'free' into frequent flyer at annual cost of $1.5 million to the taxpayer."

If correct that figure seems a tiny amount in the grand scheme of a trillion dollar economy.   I would have guessed the scheme to cost 10x that amount.    

23 Feb 2015

Total posts 259

We don't pay politicians enough for what they do IMHO. 


I can't imagine being away from home that much, losing my anonymity in the way that they do, being constantly second guessed by at least half the population regarding my true intentions, disrupting my professional career etc...

20 business class flights a year is a small price to pay. This is simply a headline playing to the uninformed masses.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

07 Feb 2015

Total posts 130

Yes I agree pollies travel a lot and often away from home,not being trusted (kind of their own fault in a way) etc etc. But they knew all of these before signing up for the post and I think a base salary of almost 200K a year is extremely generous (world leading as I understand), not to mention all the additional entitlements and expense claims they get. 

Also don't forget many other people who work in many other industries are also away from home and travel a lot, and many of them don't get paid anywhere near 200k a year.  Flight attendants, truck drivers, FIFOs, even your average CBD office workers who often have to travel (some almost weekly) to different cities for meetings/appointments in Economy. How do you think those QF P1s get their status? It's not as if they just get a Chairman's club invitation like many pollies do.

And why should my money pay towards MPs who have retired? They are RETIRED from being a 'burdened' public servant and if they want luxury travel, then they can pay their own way, just like most of us have to.

13 Sep 2016

Total posts 15

I might agree that on the whole MPs are underpaid compared to what we expect of them, but the perks we're talking about here are lifetime benefits after they retire. On top of a generous pension and an extremely generous super scheme. There's simply no reason for an ex-MP to be able to take taxpayer-funded business class flights.

23 Feb 2015

Total posts 259

Negative votes were entirely predictable! Glad I wasn't disappointed lol

$200k is a lot of money, no doubt, but it isn't exhorbitant by any stretch. Many FIFO workers, to pick up one of your examples, earn more. So do many middle managers in corporates around Australia, all of whom get to work for this money while remaining outside the public eye.

This is a travel site rather than a political one so won't keep on this, but when pretty much every ASX50 CEO would need to take a pay cut to become CEO of the country (and most CFOs to become treasurer) then you wonder whether our best and brightest are being attracted to a vocation that directly impacts our society.

While I take your point re the pollies knowing what they are getting into before becoming a candidate, I fear a further reduction to benefits will only reduce the talent pool further.

As for post retirement benefits (bringing to back to the original topic!) 1. It costs bugger all to provide the benefit, 2. The profile created by being a politician hangs around well after leaving office - it's not like when one of us retires and moves on to another gig. I think there is sufficient "apples and oranges" here that justify a distinction between  what we would expect to get and what ex-politicians should get.

And with that I am done with this thread :))

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

07 Feb 2015

Total posts 130

Being a politician, of which the true meaning should be to serve the country and the people they love and respect and make it a better place for all. This is NOT a money making job! Politicians get a generous pay compare to the rest of the country (the average full time wage is 75k before tax in Australia) and live comfortably with their extra generous retirement pay, I think that's more than enough to compensate their 'away from home, under the public eye' past. And they are not CEOs of the country, they are public servants.

I agree the 'Gold Pass' may be only a tiny amount of money within the big scheme, but it's more the principle of these 'benefits' that cannot be justified.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer Platinum

07 Feb 2013

Total posts 558

Negative votes are a usual consequence on this site of narrowminded ideas, I'm sure you are the guy at your company trying to swindle or scam every single benefit available with ideas like this

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer Platinum

07 Feb 2013

Total posts 558

You have got to be kidding, you need to do some reading. 

23 Feb 2015

Total posts 259

Ladies and gentlemen, this is why you should never drink and comment...

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Jan 2013

Total posts 246

Just remember that the gent who originally coined the phrase now get's paid $360,000 per year + a $93,000 'retirement allowance' (not a pension cause that's a bad word) all tax free. 

People like Joe 'the age of entitlements is over' (except for me) Hockey, chose this lifestyle knowing what it would bring. 

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

11 Mar 2015

Total posts 185

finally some reasonable policy decision-probably they will vote themselves a raise soon so that would cover for the lost perks

Hi Guest, join in the discussion on Government axes lifetime free flights for former politicians