Local MP 'not fussed' over end to perks

Member of the Queensland Parliament for Gladstone Liz Cunningham.
Member of the Queensland Parliament for Gladstone Liz Cunningham. Luka Kauzlaric

GLADSTONE state MP Liz Cunningham isn't worried that she won't get free travel once she leaves office.

Mrs Cunningham, who has not revealed any plans about her future, said she did not enter parliament to pick up "perks".

Her comments came following news that former Queensland MPs would no longer receive extensive travel entitlements, with the age-old practice to be phased out over the next four years.

Travel entitlements for former MPs, including commercial air and rail benefits for their spouses, currently cost Queensland taxpayers $290,000 annually.

It equates to about $2000 per person, for those eligible for the benefits.

But all that is set to change from December 31, 2018.

Ms Cunningham said she was not surprised by the move to remove extensive travel entitlements from MPs once they left State Parliament

"I'm guessing it's come about because the system has been abused in the past by some former members," she said yesterday.

"If people abuse the system it's generally the case that they will lose it.

"A normal person who retires doesn't have any entitlement which carries over for the rest of their life, if it's just a perk.

"If a former member has ongoing responsibilities after leaving parliament, obviously that should be covered."

The Queensland Independent Remuneration Tribunal, which delivered its latest recommendations yesterday, also tightened up the amount future MPs will receive in severance payments once they leave parliament.

All new MPs elected at the next and future elections will receive a new "transition allowance" of 12 weeks base salary once they leave State Parliament.

Currently MPs severance packages can range from three to six months base salary depending on the number of terms they had served.

Anna Bligh
Anna Bligh Chris Ison

Former Premier Anna Bligh claimed a meagre $151.96 in travel benefits over the past financial year which was a far cry from her colleague, former Leader of the House Judy Spence, who racked up $10,195.76 in taxpayer-funded travel.

Former Labor Minister Henry Palaszczuk, father of current Labor Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk, ran up $10,728.10 in travel over the past year, the highest of any former MP.

Tribunal chair Professor Tim Brailsford said all former MPs had been consulted about the changes.

"Most former MPs argued a strong case to have the current arrangement stay in place," he said.

"A minority of them understood times had changed.

"A number of former MP submissions commented that the intrinsic value of the travel entitlements was symbolic as it recognised the contribution of former MPs beyond the economic value of the benefits."

A former MP, whose identity was protected, said in their submission to the tribunal the travel benefits were modest and should be retained.

"My view is that as a MP certain conditions were granted to members upon their retirement and ... conditions should not be changed to those members affected."

2012-13 TRAVEL

  • The average cost for former MP travel (commercial air and rail) was $2116 excluding GST based on 138 eligible former MPs
  • Only 11 former MPs chose not to accept any travel entitlement
  • Fifty-eight former MPs received travel entitlements where the cost was less than $300 per individual
  • Sixteen former MPs, or 11% of those eligible, claimed travel entitlements more than $5000

Topics:  liz cunningham politics queensland government travel entitlements

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