Parliamentary Business Resources Bill 2017

10 May 2017

DR CHALMERS (Rankin) (16:22): I rise to speak on the Parliamentary Business Resources Bill 2017 and Parliamentary Business Resources (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2017 before us. I do not intend to take too much of the House's time. We will be supporting these bills. We will be supporting these bills for a very simple reason, and that is that we support any reasonable steps to ensure that the work expenses of people in this building are consistent with what the community expects of us. I think we on all sides of the House appreciate that Australians do not particularly have a lot of faith in the political system as it stands. I will not go into all the reasons for that, but it is true. I think that the Australian people do have a right to expect us to be held to the highest possible standards, and this bill does go some of the way towards that effort.

It is up to us in this place to help strengthen our system to improve, where we can, transparency and accountability as they relate to the work expenses of politicians, because, when we do fail to live up to the expectations the people rightly have of us, we allow fringe groups and others to grow and spread fear and hate throughout our communities. That is the blunt reality of the cost and consequences of people losing faith in our political system.

Some context for this bill: it was under the member for Warringah when the former member for Mackellar used a helicopter on taxpayer funds to go to a fundraiser. The member for Warringah, the former Prime Minister, ordered an independent review into parliamentary expenses. The new Prime Minister, the member for Wentworth, received the recommendations of that review on 22 February 2016, more than a year ago. Unfortunately, for more than a year there was no action. There was no reform. There were no changes to respond to those recommendations.

On this side of the House we will be offering support for these bills, but it is worth noting that we have always been committed to reforming these work expenses, these parliamentary resources. We have offered to the government every bit of assistance at every stage in passing their legislation and implementing these types of reforms.

We supported, as honourable members would recall, the establishment of the Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority. Quite recently, we progressed the legislation through the House and through the Senate without delay. It was only through the support of the Labor Party that these reforms were implemented in such a timely fashion. Honourable members will recall that was Senator Macdonald from the coalition who tried to delay those reforms by trying to protect his own entitlements and expenses. That was what caused the little delay that we saw. But from our point of view, from outside of the parliament, we did what we could to make sure that those changes passed in a timely way and that is what we will do again. We will ensure the speedy passage of this legislation to restore public faith in the democratic political systems or at least take some steps towards restoring that faith in the system. In that context, we are happy to support these bills through this House and through the other place as well.