Bills Digest No. 4 2002-03
Members of Parliament (Life Gold Pass) Bill
This Digest was prepared for debate. It reflects the legislation as
introduced and does not canvass subsequent amendments. This Digest
does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be
consulted to determine the subsequent official status of the
Contact Officer & Copyright Details
Members of Parliament (Life Gold
Pass) Bill 2002 (Bills Digest 4, 2002-03)
26 June 2002
House: House of Representatives
Portfolio: Special Minister of State
Either on Royal Assent
or 28 days after that date.
To codify the entitlements of former members of
Parliament, their spouses and widows/widowers to travel entitements
where they are eligible to hold a Life Gold Pass.
The Bill also provides that former
Parliamentarians convicted of a corruption offence will cease to be
eligible to hold a Life Gold Pass.
Entitlements Act 1990 entitles Members of Parliament to
benefits listed in Schedule
1 Part 1 of the Act. The Act also allows benefits in the
Schedule to be 'varied or omitted' by Determination of the
Remuneration Tribunal or by regulations pursuant to the Act. Where
the regulations and determinations are inconsistent, the
regulations prevail and the determination is void to the extent of
7 of the Remuneration
Tribunal Act 1973 says that the Tribunal shall 'inquire
into, and determine' allowances paid to MPs, Office Holders and
The entitlement to a Life Gold Pass is specified
in Clause 7 of Determination 1998/26.
Eligible retiring parliamentarians are entitled
to travel within Australia (excluding the external territories) at
government expense for non-commercial purposes up to a maximum of
25 return trips a year (former MPs, including former Prime
Ministers, who held, or were eligible to hold, a Life Gold Pass
prior to January 1994 are entitled to unlimited travel for
non-commercial purposes). Travel may be on scheduled
commercial/commuter air services, mainline rail services and other
government services, or by motor coach or other vehicles operating
as regular carriers. Other features are:
- the class of travel is the same as that determined for a
sitting senator or member currently first or business class,
whichever is appropriate for the mode of transport used
- pass holders are entitled to be accompanied by their
- pass holders must use accrued frequent flyer points to reduce
the cost of future travel under the life gold pass provisions
- widow/widower retains an entitlement for 12 months after a
Qualifying periods are specified in clause 7.2
of Determination 1998/26
Ministers (other than Parliamentary Secretaries)
President of the Senate
Speaker of the House of Representatives
Leader of the Opposition
Parliamentary Secretaries and Senators and Members
Twenty years or the life of seven Parliaments
- a person who has served as Prime Minister for less than one
year, or a Minister, presiding officer or Leader of the Opposition
who has held office for less than six years, shall have that period
trebled in determining their eligibility for a Life Gold Pass by
way of 20 years service as a senator or member
- periods of broken service may be accumulated
- for the purpose of this entitlement the life of six parliaments
plus a further period of three years service, none of which is part
of the life of those six parliaments, may be taken as the
equivalent of the 'life of seven parliaments'.
Since 1991, those entitled to Gold Pass travel
have also been able to use Comcar services to travel to and from
the place where there Gold Pass travel commences and ends.
In 2001, by resolution of the Senate, the
Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) undertook a performance
audit on parliamentary entitlements. In
Audit Report No 5 2001-2002 Parliamentarians' Entitlements:
1999-2000, the Auditor-General made 28 recommendations to the
Presiding Officers to 'improve the administration of
Parliamentarians' various entitlements.' The Report found a number
of problems with the current arrangements, including:
- Gold Pass holders could travel for any non-commercial purpose,
for example holidays, while sitting MPs entitlement to travel was
restricted to reasons connected with their position
- Pre 1994 Gold Pass holders entitled to unlimited travel may
incur significant expenditure, with one, excluding their spouse,
taking more than 100 return trips at a cost of $95 654 in 1999
- Spouses issued with a Gold Pass prior to 1976 are also entitled
to unlimited travel, with one taking more than 70 trips at a cost
of $50 944 in 1999 2000
- The legality of the use of Comcar and similar services was
doubtful. Quoting legal advice the Report stated:
The only transport services which are subject to
Life Gold Pass are those provided on a scheduled or regular basis.
We consider that as COMCAR, hire car, self-drive vehicles and taxi
transport are not provided on a regular or scheduled basis, but are
rather provided on demand, that these services are outside the
scope of the Life Gold Pass under the Determinations as presently
press release of 27 September 2001, the Prime Minister
responded to the ANAO Report with an announcement of changes to
print and travel entitlements, including to Life Gold Pass travel.
Changes announced were:
- Life Gold Pass holders, excluding former Prime Ministers, to be
limited to 25 domestic trips annually
- Future former Prime Ministers to be limited to 40 domestic
The Government indicated that 40 trips reflects
'a legitimate level of travel consistent with the many civic and
community events former Prime Ministers are expected to
- Travel expenditure by Life Gold Pass holders, severance travel
beneficiaries and the spouses of deceased parliamentarians will be
As noted above, the ANAO received legal advice
questioning the provision of Comcar and similar services to Life
Gold Pass holders. It was reported on 21 May 2002 that the
Department of Finance and Administration had written to Life Gold
Pass holders informing them that the entitlement to use Comcar
would be withdrawn from 1 July 2002. A spokesman for the Minister
was reported as stating:
Life Gold Pass holders since 1991 have been able
to use the Comcar services to get from their home to an airport or
to a railway station
That was a decision made by the Minister at the
We got further [legal] advice and there was also
some question about the legality of it, and so for safety's sake we
have decided to terminate it from June 30 .(2)
The spokesman indicated that former
parliamentarians could submit to the Remuneration Tribunal seeking
that the entitlement be provided under a determination.
It was also reported that the use of Comcar cost
$97 708 in the first 6 months of 2001.(3)
Retiring MPs not eligible for a Life Gold Pass
entitlement are eligible for the severance travel benefit. The key
differences between the severance travel and Life Gold Pass
- severance travel after one parliamentary term is capped at 12
return trips for six months
- the entitlement is capped it is only available for the period
- severance travel does not extend to the spouse of a
The qualifying periods are specified in clause
8.1 of Determination 1998/26.(4)
Currently, legislation exists for a former
parliamentarian to lose entitlement to employer superannuation
contributions if they are convicted of a 'corruption offence' (see
below). However, there is no similar ability to remove eligibility
for the Life Gold Pass. On 5 June 2002 the Prime Minister is
reported to have indicated that the Government would examine this
situation 'very carefully'.(5)
In a Media Release dated 11 June 2002 the
Special Minister of State announced that the Government would
legislate to fix the anomaly, stating:
If an MP is found guilty of a corruption offence
and they lose their superannuation, then there is no reason why
they should retain their Life Gold Pass or any Severance
I propose to close the current loophole by
making the loss of the Life Gold Pass (or Severance Travel)
automatic with any superannuation order issued under the Crimes
(Superannuation Benefits) Act 1989.
This measure is contained in the Bill.
A history of the Life Gold Pass is contained at
Clause 4 of Part 1 of the Bill
contains a number of definitions, including those for:
- Commercial purpose: a purpose relating to the derivation of
financial gain or reward
- Domestic return trip: a return trip which is wholly within
Australia, is not for commercial purposes and is on a scheduled
transport service or a combination of scheduled transport services
(to be wholly within Australia each stop-over must be in Australia
- Scheduled transport service: a scheduled air, rail, bus, tram,
ferry or vehicle service (this will exclude charter and Comcar
- Spouse: the entitled person's legally married husband or wife
(this excludes de-facto spouses as well as members of a same sex
- Year: the financial year commencing 1 July 2003 and later
If a member dies while a member and would have
satisfied the qualifying period for a gold pass at that time had
they retired, they will be deemed to have retired at the time of
their death (clause 6).
A stop-over in a return trip will not affect the
continuity of the trip (clause 8). However, if the
stop-over is for more than 24 hours it will generally count for an
additional half of a domestic return trip unless the regulations
specify otherwise (Part 7).
Determining in which year a trip is taken in is
dealt with in clause 9. For pass holders, other
than widows and widowers, this will be the year in which the trip
commences. For widows and widowers, if they are entitled to the
pass in the year in which their spouse died and all later years,
the trip will also be deemed to have commenced in the year in which
it is begun. For widows and widowers who are entitled to the pass
in the year in which their spouse died and the next year only, the
trip will be deemed to be in the year in which it ends (and so not
covered by the entitlement if it ends after the end of the later
Former Prime Ministers and their spouse will be
entitled to 40 return domestic trips per year and for the spouse no
more than 10 of these trips can be for purposes other than
accompanying or joining the Prime Minister. The widow or widower of
a former Prime Minister will be entitled to 10 such trips for the
first five 12 month periods commencing on the death of the former
Prime Minister and 5 for each succeeding 12 month period. The
entitlements will be subject to the pro-rata rules (see below)
Former members entitled to a gold pass and their
spouse will each be entitled to 25 return domestic trips per year.
All of the spouse's trips must be for the purpose of accompanying
or joining the former member. Widows or widowers of such members
will be entitled to 10 domestic return trips in the 12 months
following the member's death and 5 in the next 12 months. These
entitlements will also apply to the widow or widower of an entitled
member who died within 12 months of the commencement of the
section, with the entitlements beginning from commencement.
However, if the former member retired before 1 June 1976, held a
gold pass at the time of their death and died before the
commencement of this section, their widow or widower will be
entitled to 10 domestic return trips in the five 12 month period
beginning at the commencement of this provision and 5 such trips in
each successive 12 month period. The entitlements will also be
subject to the pro-rata rules (clause 11).
Entitlements for sitting members eligible for a
gold pass are dealt with in clause 12. The spouse
of the Prime Minister or a sitting former Prime Minister is
entitled to 40 domestic return trips to Canberra per year so long
as the trip is for the purpose of accompanying or joining the Prime
Minister/member. For other members the number is 25 for the same
purpose. Pro-rata adjustments may apply.
Pro-rata adjustments are dealt with in
Part 5 of the Bill. Adjustments will apply where
the former member retires from Parliament during a year, a member
becomes entitled to a gold pass during a year or a person becomes
their spouse during a year. The pro-rata formula will reduce the
number of trips available to reflect the proportion of the year in
which the person is entitled under one of the eligibility
provisions (clauses 13 and 14).
The Crimes (Superannuation Benefits) Act
1989 applies to Commonwealth employees and specifically to
members of Parliament (section 7). Where a person is convicted of
an offence and the Attorney-General is of the opinion that the
offence is a corruption offence,(6) the Attorney-General
may authorise the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to seek an
order under the Act (section 16). If the person has been sentenced
to a term of imprisonment longer than 12 months, the DPP must apply
to an appropriate court for an order (section 17). If the court is
satisfied that the offence for which the person has been convicted
is a 'corruption offence', it must make an order. The effect of the
order will be that the convicted person will forfeit their
employer's contributions to their superannuation but retain their
employee contributions (section 19). The order will come into
effect once any appeal against the conviction or sentence has been
finalised (section 20). On the order coming into
effect,(7) all benefits cease to be payable to the
person and any employer benefits already received can be recovered
as a debt due to the Commonwealth (section 21).
Where an order is made under the Crimes
(Superannuation Benefits) Act 1989 on or after 11 June 2002,
the conviction relates to an offence committed while the person was
a member and the order has not been revoked, the DPP is to notify
the Minister of the making of the order. If an order is made before
the commencement of Part 6 of the Bill, it will be deemed to have
been made immediately after commencement (clause
The effect of the making of the order will be
that if the person was the holder of a gold pass, the pass will be
cancelled. If the person had not received the pass but has
satisfied the qualifying period, they will be deemed not to satisfy
this condition. Similarly, if they do not satisfy the qualifying
period they will be deemed never to be capable of satisfying that
requirement. If the person is not the holder of a gold pass they
will also not be entitled to severance travel (clause
If the order is subsequently revoked (ie where
their conviction is quashed or sentence reduced to 12 months or
less) the above effects will be reversed (clause
18). In addition, a former member and their spouse will be
entitled to such additional domestic return trips as the Minister
considers to be fair recompense for the initial action
Part 8 of the Bill deals with
miscellaneous matters, including:
- The class of travel will be that determined by the Remuneration
Tribunal (clause 26)
- Frequent flyer points accrued where the Commonwealth has paid
for the flight and later used for a domestic return trip to which
the traveller would have been entitled under this Bill, the use of
the points is to be taken as the use of an entitlement provided
under the Bill (clause 29)
- Clause 30 provides that a determination of the
Remuneration Tribunal has no force to the extent to which it is
inconsistent with this Bill (the Remuneration Tribunal will,
amongst other matters, still determine eligibility for the Gold
There will be a transitional period commencing
on the 28th day after the Bill receives Royal Assent and
ending 30 June 2003. Schedule 1 of the Bill
provides that during the transitional period the yearly limits
proposed by the Bill will be subject to a pro-rata adjustment for
the period between commencement and 30 June 2003, so that their
entitlement will reflect the period of the year during which the
proposed Act is operational.
The Bill does not prohibit the 'double dipping'
of entitlements. In a situation where a person would be entitled to
Gold Pass benefits as both a former MP and as a
spouse/widow/widower of a former holder the Bill contains no
provision restricting their entitlement to the greatest available
entitlement. There would appear to be no reason why a person would
not be able to take advantage of both entitlements.
Audit Report No 5 2001-2002 Parliamentarians' Entitlements:
1999-2000, pp. 168 and 169.
- The Herald Sun, 21 May 2002.
- (i)service in one Parliament - six months;
(ii) service in two Parliaments - one year;
(iii) service in three Parliaments - two
(iv) service in four Parliaments - three
(v) service in five Parliaments - four
(vi) service in six Parliaments - five
Periods of broken service shall be accumulated.
However, where a member has utilised this entitlement, and is
re-elected to the Parliament, any future entitlement shall be
reduced by the amount utilised.
Travel in accordance with 8.1 shall be up to a
in the case of the period specified in clause
8.1(i) - 12 return trips; and
in the case of any other specified period - 25
return trips per annum.
- AAP: Govt examining gold travel pass for convicted MPs: Howard
5 June 2002.
- The term 'corruption offence' is not defined by reference to
certain offences, such as taking bribes, but is defined in section
2 of the Act as:
corruption offence means an offence by
a person who was an employee at the time when it was committed,
being an offence:
- whose commission involved an abuse by the person of his or her
office as such an employee; or
- that, having regard to the powers and duties of such an
employee, was committed for a purpose that involved corruption; or
- that was committed for the purpose of perverting, or attempting
to pervert, the course of justice.
- There may be some doubt as to section 21 comes into action.
While section 20 deals with when the order comes into force and it
may be presumed that the order has no effect until it comes into
force otherwise section 20 would be irrelevant, section 21 refers
to 'where a court makes an order' rather than when an order comes
There is little historical documentation
available to provide a detailed history of the entitlement. It is
believed that the Life Gold Pass began on a limited basis following
the 1918 Premiers' Conference. A Gold Pass provided free rail
travel to sitting MPs and a Life Gold Pass extended the privilege
to retired MPs. Qualification periods were 1 year for the Prime
Minister and 3 years for a Minister, the Speaker or the President
of the Senate. Gold Pass enabled free travel to sitting members and
senators over all government railways and tramways in the
Commonwealth. Rules and guidelines governed qualification and
eligibility. However, prior to 1976, final decisions on eligibility
for the entitlement rested with executive government.
Some of the major changes to the entitlement
over time are summarised as follows:
The Pass was extended to sitting Members of
Parliament after 25 years continuous service.
Qualification was extended to the Leader of the
Opposition after 6 years' service.
The Pass was extended to sitting Members of
Parliament after 25 years aggregate, not continuous, service.
Report of the Committee of Enquiry into the
Salaries and Allowances of Members of the National
The Committee recommended that no further Gold
Passes be issued and all travel arrangements to be made by warrant.
This recommendation was not immediately adopted.
Report of the Committee of Inquiry into the
Salaries and Allowances of Members of the Commonwealth
Gold Passes were withdrawn and replaced with
warrants and vouchers for rail and air travel. Life Gold Passes
continued, but the Pass did not extend to air travel. Existing
qualifying periods were retained. All allowances were again subject
to taxation laws in the normal way. The Committee recommended that
Life Gold Passes not be issued until the recipient leaves
Parliament. This recommendation was not immediately adopted.
Report of the Committee of Inquiry into the
salaries and allowances of Members of the Commonwealth
The report stated that Harold Holt, when Leader
of the House 'in the last Parliament' intimated to MPs that a
review of remunerative matters 'should be made early in the life of
each new Parliament (Report 1959 page 1).
Life Gold Passes extended to apply to air
travel. Qualifying period for the Leader of the Opposition reduced
to 3 years.
- Qualifying period for members was reduced to 20 years or the
life of 7 parliaments.
Minister for Services and Property directed that
wives or widows would be eligible for travel on the same basis as
the Life Gold Pass holder in recognition of the fact that wives
share the burden of political life.
The Remuneration Tribunal, which was established
in 1974, first dealt with the Pass in 1976 when this matter was
referred to it by the Minister for Administrative Services. The
arrangements in place when the Tribunal commenced the 1976 review
- The Prime Minister qualified after 1 year.
- A minister, the Speaker, the President of the Senate and the
Leader of the Opposition qualified after 3 years.
- Members qualified after 20 years or 7 Parliaments.
- Unrestricted travel on scheduled services for members and their
spouses, widows, widowers and nominees.
1976 Review. Determination of Salaries,
Allowances and Entitlements of Members of Parliament 1976/6.
Features of this determination were:
- 20 years for Senators and Members
- 6 years for Ministers (an increase from 3 years)
- 1 year for Prime Minister.
- Time as an office-holder or minister would be doubled to
determine eligibility as a Senator or Member.
- Prime minister entitled to first class travel
- Other eligible Pass Holders entitled to economy class air
travel and first class travel on all other modes of transport
- Spouse permitted to travel with the Life Gold Pass holder.
- Allowed the spouse's use to continue for only 12 months after
the death of the pass holder.
Importantly, the determination changed
eligibility for the Life Gold Pass so that, in addition to
completing the required length of service, the member must have
retired from the Parliament and 'not, as at present, on the
completion of the required length of service' (Remuneration
Tribunal1976 Review Determination of allowances payable to
Ministers of State page 30)
Remuneration Tribunal Annual Review.
The Tribunal further modified the qualifying
conditions by determining that service as a Minister or office
holder should be trebled in determining
eligibility as a Senator or Member.
Between 1977 and 1993 no changes were made to
the entitlement by the Tribunal.
Prior to 1993 the Life Gold Pass entitled
holders to unlimited travel at government expense for
non-commercial purposes. Following criticisms of the open-ended
nature of the entitlements, the government's submission to the
Remuneration Tribunal recommended that the entitlement be reduced
to 25 trips per annum. The Tribunal accepted this advice and
accordingly Determination No 18 of 1993 reduced the
entitlement to a maximum of 25 trips per annum with effect from 1
Chris Field and Leanne Manthorpe
26 July 2002
Bills Digest Service
Information and Research Services
This paper has been prepared for general distribution to
Senators and Members of the Australian Parliament. While great care
is taken to ensure that the paper is accurate and balanced, the
paper is written using information publicly available at the time
of production. The views expressed are those of the author and
should not be attributed to the Information and Research Services
(IRS). Advice on legislation or legal policy issues contained in
this paper is provided for use in parliamentary debate and for
related parliamentary purposes. This paper is not professional
legal opinion. Readers are reminded that the paper is not an
official parliamentary or Australian government document.
IRS staff are available to discuss the paper's
contents with Senators and Members and their staff but not with
members of the public.
© Commonwealth of Australia 2002
Except to the extent of the uses permitted under the
Copyright Act 1968, no part of this publication may be
reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including
information storage and retrieval systems, without the prior
written consent of the Parliamentary Library, other than by Members
of the Australian Parliament in the course of their official
Published by the Department of the Parliamentary Library,
Back to top