Today the Greens backed a measure to disqualify corrupt former politicians from receiving parliamentary pensions.
Ms JENNY LEONG ( Newtown ) ( 17:05 :06 ): I speak in support of the Parliamentary Contributory Superannuation Amendment (Criminal Charges and Convictions) Bill 2017. Following the contribution of my Greens colleague the member for Balmain, I put on the record the concerns we have about the issue of corruption infecting our democracy in New South Wales and our recognition that this legislation is a change that the community expects. It is one small step in attempting to reassure the community that we will stamp out corruption, that we will ensure that members in this place observe what people in the community consider to be acceptable and reasonable behaviour, and that we will prevent anyone who engages in corrupt and criminal conduct from benefiting from the public purse.
We should remember the level of shock in the community when stories came out about the corrupt activities of parliamentarians. It did damage to us all in this place because it showed that there were members in this Parliament who were willing to put self-interest ahead of the interests of the community whom they were elected to serve. In 2014 the New South Wales Parliament was considered to be the most corrupt parliament in Australia's history. In only nine months, 11 Liberal politicians resigned, stepped down or were moved to the crossbenches amid corruption investigations, and Labor names like Obeid, Macdonald, Kelly and Tripodi became shorthand for the corruption that pervaded Macquarie Street at that time. Key corrupt and criminal former politicians reaped the benefits of generous taxpayer-funded superannuation pensions by resigning prior to being charged or convicted. The fact that this loophole has existed for so long is shameful to us all and it is long overdue in being addressed.
The loophole has rewarded corrupt politicians and it has done little to reassure the community that this Parliament will do everything it can to ensure that corruption is not tolerated. It is important for us to realise that there are always good people in this place. But there is a potential for all of us to feel that we are above the law because we sit here and make decisions on legislation. As my colleague the member for Balmain reminded us, this is a sobering reminder to us all that the risk of being in a powerful position can be that we believe we are above the law and that the decisions we are making, the deals we are doing, the interests we are serving are worth it because we believe that we are right and no-one should be able to tell us any different. It is an important reminder as we pass this legislation in this place that that kind of arrogance, that kind of culture of believing that we are always right, that what is in our interests is in the best interests of everybody, is the downfall of our democracy because it fails to listen to people and it fails to take into account other people's positions.
The Greens have fought long and tirelessly to ensure that we remove corruption from New South Wales politics, including donations and the influence of money on decisions that affect our democracy and our Parliament. We have long called for more to be done to clean up politics and democracy in New South Wales. I am proud to represent a party that is committed to that goal. I am proud to be a member of a Parliament that is passing legislation that says we will not tolerate this kind of behaviour from former members. It is a clear reminder to us all that we must always act in the interests of the communities that we serve and not out of self-interest.