Phillip Hudson From: Herald Sun January 31, 2010 10:00PM
THIRTY-EIGHT former MPs have been forced to repay almost $36,000 to taxpayers after they were investigated for wrongly claiming a range of travel perks under the Gold Pass scheme.
Despite already receiving a generous taxpayer-funded superannuation nest egg and free business-class air travel, the retired MPs wrongly claimed perks such as flights for spouses and children, chauffeur-driven cars, taxis, rail trips and valet parking.
Documents obtained by the Herald Sun under Freedom of Information reveal those forced to pay back money include former ministers Peter Reith, Ian Sinclair, Alexander Downer, Alan Griffiths, Graham Richardson, Larry Anthony, John Brown, Brian Howe, Dame Margaret Guilfoyle and Barry Jones.
The revelations will intensify pressure on the Federal Government to shut down or scale back the Gold Pass scheme.
Mr Reith, who as a minister had to repay $47,707 worth of phone calls made by his son and other people, has repaid $2841 for flights taken by his wife, Julie, to the Gold Coast, Cairns and Launceston.
Alexander Downer was ordered to destroy his taxpayer-funded Cabcharge card and repay $117 for four taxi fares during a visit to Melbourne after he quit Parliament.
Former Labor senator Margaret Reynolds repaid $8556 for exceeding the limit of 25 free return taxpayer flights a year while Mr Anthony and Martyn Evans had to pay back more than one thousand dollars.
Mr Sinclair was made to repay $3081 for Comcar trips and also pay $915 for flights his wife, Rosemary, took to their holiday cottage on Lord Howe Island.
Peter Nixon, Mr Griffiths and Mr Brown also repaid the cost of flights taken by their partners.
Graham Richardson was among several asked to pay back the cost of chauffeur-driven Comcars, though he took almost two years to pay his $63.85 bill.
Since 2001, about 270 former MPs have taken 20,000 fights under the Gold Pass scheme, costing taxpayers $8.3 million.
Ex-MPs are entitled to free business-class travel and their spouse is covered only if they are travelling with them.
Former MPs qualify for a Life Gold Pass if they have served 20 years in Parliament or six years as a minister.
All other former MPs are entitled to enjoy the travel perk for between six months and five years after they leave Parliament, depending on their length of service.
Special Minister of State Joe Ludwig has called an inquiry into all aspects of politicians entitlements, including pay, allowances and the Gold Pass.
Options being considered for the Gold Pass include axing it or reducing the scheme by requiring a public benefit test, banning travel for holidays and disclosing the reason for each flight.