Veteran coalition senator Ian Macdonald has hinted he will cross the floor to oppose the axing of the life gold travel pass for politicians.
The prime minister on Thursday introduced a bill to the lower house to establish a new expenses watchdog.
A bill to immediately axe one of the most generous retirement perks for federal MPs – the life gold travel pass – was also introduced, and follows the expenses scandal that claimed the scalp of former health minister Sussan Ley.
Senator Macdonald railed against the axing of the gold pass on Thursday, telling parliament he would oppose the government.
He said he had told a party-room meeting it was time someone stood up for politicians, insisting they were not “particularly well paid”.
“It’s about time our leaders, all of our leaders … started just emphasising how much work politicians do, how much commitment most of the people who sit in this parliament have,” he said.
“Most parliamentarians, those on this side, would have done infinitely better financially staying in their legal practice, staying in their business.”
Senator Macdonald intends to move amendments to both bills, but will still support the new watchdog even if his proposed changes are rejected.
He attempted to have the gold pass legislation referred to a Senate inquiry to give those affected by the changes a say, but the move was rejected by the upper house.
“I’ll leave this place probably in a box, so it’s not going to relate to me,” he said.
“If I don’t, the last thing I want to do after 27 years of flying from Townsville to Canberra to do my job here is sit on a plane ever again.”
Senator Macdonald said the retrospective changes would affect a small group of elderly former parliamentarians who served with far fewer conditions and pay than current politicians, and the gold pass was part of the deal.
“They are entitled to what was agreed upon. It should not be taken from them,” he said.
“At least let these people come in and have their say.”
Senator Macdonald wants to strengthen the proposed expenses watchdog to include oversight of all taxpayer-funded positions, including public servants, judges and statutory tribunals such as the Human Rights Commission.
“Everyone should be as open and transparent and accountable as parliamentarians are,” he told AAP.
He acknowledged the move might not be popular among his coalition colleagues, urging Greens senators to support his amendments.
“I suspect there’s not going to be too many on my side to second it,” he told parliament.