STEVE MILLS: Now before today I never knew there was an Association of the Former MPs of the Parliament of Australia, the AFMPA, and they're representing former politicians who believe changes made earlier this year breach the Constitution. In fact they're using the same clause as was used in the famous movie The Castle, saying that it breached just terms. You might remember that term being used, just terms. What are they arguing about?
Well they're saying that they reckon they were hard done by. You know how they have all these benefits like the superannuation and they changed the way the super was linked back. In other words the super just kept going up and up and up because it was tied to their salary increases that were going up and up and up, that was paid once they actually finished in politics.
Probably salary's the long word. Their super payout's probably the best way to describe that. Of course we also know that politicians have been accused of taking a few extra flights from time to time. More than twenty-five thousand free flights have been taken by retired MPs or their families, family members in the past decade.
Speaker Ian Sinclair, you might remember Sinkers, has taken more than seven-hundred-and-fifty flights costing over two-hundred-and-fifty thousand and between July and December last year his family and himself took fifty-five free flights costing nineteen thousand dollars. Geoff Prosser, closer to home, the former Liberal Minister, cost taxpayers twenty-four thousand including ten-thousand-three-hundred-and-seventy-eight for free trips to Broome where he has a holiday home.
This has all been well documented. Now one bloke that was fighting to actually make sure that this was changed was a fellow by the name of Gary Gray, who's a Member for the Federal seat of Brand and I want to ask Gary but he's the one that actually brought this in, whether he's confident that his laws would actually stack up.
What they're arguing is they want it all reversed and they want all the benefits that they were getting previously to return, but what's even more insulting I think to the average person in the street is that they've said you know what? They've written - this organisation who call themselves a group that represents all former Federal politicians that want to be part of the AFMPA - they've written to the Federal Parliament and said you know what?
We'd like you to actually fund this and we want to take it and we want to challenge it in a higher place such as the High Court, which wouldn't be cheap. So they've written to the Federal Parliament, said you know what? You can pay for it and therefore that will result in windfalls for up to four hundred former politicians, former parliamentarians.
And also it actually goes into a couple of those that are currently sitting in Parliament as well, about sixty percent of annual goal parks perk they've lost because of the decision that was placed earlier in the year and they're saying hey, we don't like that, we're going to challenge it and we want you to pay.
Now that, if that's not an example of snouts in the trough if I've never seen one.
MALE COMPERE: Are you meant to fund your own super technically Steve as in it depends what you earn and a percentage of your wage goes towards super?
MILLS: Well under the Federal Parliamentarians, when they entered politics their argument is they were entitled to such benefits because that's what was included and they say it's wrong that a law was actually passed that clawed back some of those benefits. I think the average person in the street would say those benefits were too generous to begin with.
COMPERE: That's right, it's probably wrong that they were put there in the first place.
MILLS: Anyway, what we might do is try and track down Gary Gray because he's the guy that actually brought these in and whether he believes that we can actually fund this particular challenge by this group of people, the AFMPA. Gary's joining us now. Good morning to you Gary.
GARY GRAY: G'day Steve.
MILLS: Now I find this quite remarkable that they have the hide to one, ask for the money from the Federal Parliament to challenge this in the High Court.
GRAY: Well they'd asked for taxpayers money in order to get themselves a pension increase that Steve, could measure as much as sixty or seventy thousand dollars as an increase in their pension. It's simply outrageous.
MILLS: Now you were the one that led the charge to say look, the average person in the street thinks the perks we're getting as politicians are far too excessive and you brought these changes in conjunction with the Parliament. Do you think it'll stand the test in the High Court because they're going to use the term that it's against the Constitution? They're describing it like a Castle type battle.
GRAY: That's true. What they're saying is that the terms and conditions of their service in Parliament meant that they were entitled to fifty per cent of a parliamentarian's salary, or a multiple equivalent of that for the rest of their lives and what we said was we'll remove all of these perks from parliamentarians' salary packages.
We'll increase the basic pay, but we won't allow it to flow through to pensions and that's really important Steve, that when politicians do increase their pay they prevent that base increase from flowing through to the perks of retired politicians and most importantly to ensure that it's properly funded.
So we took a lot of conditions out of current serving politicians to fund that basic pay rise so it was transparent, people knew what they were getting. They might not be happy about it, but they knew what MPs were getting paid and this is simply an outrageous cash grab by these retired politicians.
MILLS: How many ex-politicians are actually going to fight this battle? How many do they really represent?
GRAY: My suspicion is very few. My suspicion is that there are very hard-working retired parliamentarians, guys like Fred Chaney. Fred works easily a sixty hour week these days supporting a whole range of community organisations, Government organisations and he does it so well.
So I'm not talking about those parliamentarians who do that here. We have a couple of retired parliamentarians from the 1980s and 1990s, on both sides of the Parliament who are trying this on and it's simply wrong.
MILLS: Absolutely. I mean the other thing, I mean I admire Fred, Mr Chaney, right and I admire politicians like those that get out into the community, but there's people that have been in general business that also do such things. Why should we fund them?
GRAY: I think that's entirely reasonable. When we made the changes in 2004 it was done deliberately to prevent this sort of flow on and it was put in place deliberately to force parliamentarians into exactly the same community standards as everyone else. Now as we all know that's tough, but this attempt by this small number of retired MPs in my view is simply outrageous.
They've not only asked for the pension increase to flow through, but they've asked for the taxpayer to fund their case before the High Court for goodness sake.
MILLS: And what's the Parliament going to say about that?
GRAY: Well we'll say no. We'll say no. Both sides will say no. Mr Abbott will say no. The Prime Minister Gillard will say no and they've been in the Parliament for long enough to know why the Parliament has taken the decisions it's taken over the years and I could say Steve, neither side of Federal Parliament would be supporting this gesture at all.
MILLS: They say politicians have hides like buffalos. These blokes must be really leathered to be able to do what they do.
GRAY: Well I think that's right and perhaps when you think about the need for a tough hide and we all have that, you put that to good use in arguing your case on policy, in arguing the case on issues of national importance. You don't put it in place arguing for a pension increase on some occasions with these guys ten, fifteen or twenty years after you've left the Parliament.
STEVE: No, fair enough. Gary, thanks for your time this morning.
GARY: Thanks Steve.
STEVE: Interesting that he's going to continue the battle, Gary Gray and rightly so. I can't understand for one moment how you would have the hide to say oh, well you can fund it as well by the way and hopefully you'll give us the money. Nothing surprises us. I'm glad he's said that both sides of politics would reject that application.ENDS