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High Court to rule on MP entitlement bid

AAP logoAAP 10/10/2016

Four former federal MPs will find out on Wednesday if their legal challenge to cuts to their generous retirement perks has paid off.

The four - Howard government defence minister John Moore, Hawke government minister Barry Cohen and Labor MPs Barry Cunningham and Anthony Lamb - argued their entitlements under the Superannuation Act and to the life gold pass were their property.

And that property had been acquired by the Commonwealth other than on the just terms required by Section 51 (xxxi) of the Constitution.

That's the same section made famous in the classic Australian comedy The Castle in which the Aussie battler Kerrigan family resort to the High Court when developers seek to acquire their home to expand an airport.

Entitlements for politicians, past and present, remain deeply controversial and have been progressively wound back from their most generous heights.

The legal challenge - launched last year at the peak of the row over then house speaker Bronwyn Bishop's $5000 helicopter charter to attend a Liberal function - relates to changes made by Labor in government and by the Remuneration Tribunal.

In 2011 legislation changed how the retiring allowance of politicians was calculated with the effect of reducing their rate of increase.

In 2012, legislation reduced the longstanding life gold pass entitlement from 25 domestic return trips to 10.

Once this pass allowed unlimited trips at taxpayer expense.

In their submission, the group's lawyer argued that the life gold pass was a reward for long and distinguished service, not a gratuity.

"Upon vesting, the right conferred on the Life Gold Pass holder could not be acquired by the Commonwealth without the provision of just terms," they said.

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