Aussie Politicians To Miss Travel Privilege For Good
13th May 2014
Better days will soon be a thing of the past when retired public officials lose their privilege of enjoying free domestic travels with VIP status?ten times each year?effective in the year 2020.
The free travel to domestic destinations is a privilege accorded to the retired Members of the Parliament using their VIP card, called Life Gold Pass, a frequent flyer card membership granted by the Federal Government. The free trips, actually don't come free after all, as they are subsidized by the Federal Government, thus taxpayers pay for them.
During the 2014 Federal Budget deliberation, it was decided that the lifetime gold travel pass will be abolished after January 1, 2020. Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey made the announcement during his inaugural speech as the new Treasurer of Australia when he assumed office in September last year.
Based on the current allocation as stated in the 2014 Federal Budget, former MPs will still enjoy the 10 free domestic travels each year, but only during the first three successive years soon after they retire. The former Ministers, though, are allocated double the number of years, to six, for their 10 free annual trips. Furthermore, partners of the retired officials availing the privilege are no longer included in the new policy.
The government is also getting stricter with the reasons for their trips to prevent abuse of the privilege which is shouldered by the taxpayers.
Prior to the amendment, it was specifically stated that retired MPs should not use the VIP card for 'commercial or personal business purpose'. Rather, it should be used only for community service and charitable work or any government-related travels. Though they were allowed to use it for family holiday travels.
The new rules specify that private trips are not allowed. It also introduces a specific 'public benefit test' policy to ensure trips are made to attend to public functions that benefit the general public.
During the last fiscal year, 2012-2013, it was estimated that travels made by retired politicians cost about $1.13 million to the government treasury.
Independent Senator Xenophon welcomed the new rule by the Treasury saying it has to go because he finds it hard to justify its existence in the first place. He has long opposed to the Life Gold Pass privilege mocking it as 'the epitome of the age of entitlement'.