Parliamentary Contributory Superannuation Amendment (Criminal Charges and Convictions) Bill 2017

Mr DAVID SHOEBRIDGE ( 16:31 : 3 ): With the indulgence of the House I seek leave to make a second reading contribution on this bill.

Leave granted.

Mr DAVID SHOEBRIDGE ( 16:35 ): By leave: I thank the House for their indulgence on this matter. I speak on behalf of The Greens to indicate our strong support for the Parliamentary Contributory Superannuation Amendment (Criminal Charges and Convictions) Bill 2017. The Greens believe this bill should have come to Parliament much sooner than it has. I accept that drafting legislation can be a somewhat complicated process, but this bill has only three substantive pages of drafting and does one very simple thing. It says that if a member of Parliament who is entitled to a parliamentary pension so grossly breaches their ethical standards in relation to their work in office and if they are convicted of a criminal offence, they should lose their right to a pension.

If you test this on the streets of Sydney or in any part of New South Wales, the people will agree with you 100 per cent. We are not talking in the abstract. We know that two of the first individuals this law will apply to are former members of this Chamber, Eddie Obeid and Ian Macdonald, both of whom were ministers with substantial responsibilities. When such individuals have so grossly breached the public trust, and both tarnished this Chamber, the roles of politicians, the ministerial office—

The Hon. Adam Searle: Tarnished their party.

Mr DAVID SHOEBRIDGE: I accept that interjection from the Leader of the Opposition. They tarnished their party and the Government of New South Wales through their actions. Prior to the passage of this bill the law was that they could keep their parliamentary pensions for life, which was an affront to any decency in New South Wales. For years and years in this Chamber The Greens members, particularly Sylvia Hale and Lee Rhiannon, had long-running battles with Ian MacDonald. He was abusive and aggressive, and his behaviour in the Chamber was ugly in the extreme. Sylvia Hale and Lee Rhiannon sought to hold him to account and get some straight answers from him in his role as Minister. I do not think this Chamber did itself any credit when it allowed him to behave in such an ugly, overbearing and aggressive way towards those members. This Chamber should have held him to account.

The Hon. Trevor Khan: You were not the only one seeking answers.

Mr DAVID SHOEBRIDGE: I accept and note the interjection from the now Government benches, but members of the then Coalition Opposition also failed to get answers. The aggression that Macdonald displayed, particularly against those female members of The Greens who were seeking answers, was abominable. We now know that behind that aggression and lack of transparency was ugliness and corruption. We should remember that in future. During the debate some concern was raised that somehow either Obeid or MacDonald might be able to use this bill to reduce their sentence by saying, “Isn’t it terrible? We shouldn’t go to jail because they’re taking a pension from us.” I am glad to note that Schedule 2 makes it clear that this cannot happen. Schedule 2 provides:

In sentencing an offender who is a member or former member of Parliament, the court must not take into account as a mitigating factor in sentencing, the loss of the offender’s entitlement or pension under the Parliamentary Contributory Superannuation Act 1971 because of the conviction to the offence.

And nor should any court take that into account. There is a principled reason for that. Thankfully, I will not get a pension and no-one elected since the middle of 2007 will not get a pension, but the pension originally was introduced in return for service in office in Parliament. Where a member has so appallingly breached their duty to the fair people of New South Wales and ultimately been convicted for that, ipso facto they lose any right to a pension. To think members of Parliament could avoid jail because they were losing their pension, effectively buying themselves out of office with an entitlement that they never should have had in the first place because of their corrupt, also offended common sense. I am glad to see Schedule 2 attached to the bill and see this legislation finally finding its way. Unfortunately, thousands of dollars have been paid to these two individuals since their conviction, which I would like to see retrieved. Unfortunately, this bill will not be able to get it back. This bill sends a positive message that every member of this Parliament can get behind to bring to an end any corrupt politician ever getting another dollar out of the taxpayers of New South Wales.

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