Federal politicians will keep the vast majority of their parliamentary perks but their spending will be subject to greater scrutiny under changes to the entitlements system being considered by the Turnbull government.
Fairfax Media can reveal that the report ordered by former prime minister Tony Abbott in the wake of the Bronwyn Bishop "choppergate" scandal has been delivered to newly appointed Special Minister of State Mathias Cormann.
The review panel found the current system was "complex, ambiguous and out of step with community expectations".
Fairfax understands that dozens – and possibly as many as 100 – serving politicians were interviewed or made submissions to the review. Many of them argued the system needs to remain flexible in order for them to do their jobs.
The report – drafted by former Liberal leader Brendan Nelson, former Labor Speaker Harry Jenkins, businesswoman Linda Nicholls and public service officials David Tune and John Conde – was submitted late last month.
While the contents of the report are a closely guarded secret, Fairfax understands it does not recommend a major overhaul of the entitlements, allowances or budgets that politicians are entitled to.
While the review may result in some perks – such as family reunion benefits – being trimmed, sources say any such changes will be minor.
Rather, the review proposes a new independent framework to set and monitor entitlements in a bid to make them more transparent and accountable.
The new system will more clearly define the rules and guidelines, including what can and cannot be considered official business amid ongoing ambiguity about such events as sporting matches, weddings and party fundraisers.
It is also expected to open politicians up to greater scrutiny, potentially making them less likely to engage in entitlements misuse. The report also proposes changes to deal more effectively with allegations of misuse.
It's widely expected the government will adopt most if not all of the review's proposals. Labor is also expected to support the changes.
The report also examines whether senior officials such as departmental heads should fall under the new entitlements system. In crafting its report, the review panel looked at parliamentary entitlements systems across the world.
Mr Abbott announced the review on August 2, the same day Mrs Bishop resigned her role as Speaker after it was revealed she spent more than $5000 to charter a helicopter to travel from Melbourne to Geelong to attend a party fundraiser.
The scandal opened the entitlements floodgates, sparking public fury and tarnishing MPs on all sides of politics.
"Some parliamentary travel has been inside entitlement but outside community expectations," Mr Abbott said at the time. "The rules lack clarity and lack transparency. We need a system that is simple, effective and clear."
The review was the latest in a long line conducted over the decades.
The last root-and-branch review was done by former senior public servant Barbara Belcher in 2011 – but only 17 of her 39 recommendations were implemented by the Gillard government.
Independent senator Nick Xenophon has proposed a radical overhaul – and has introduced legislation to support it – that would subject spending to much more regular scrutiny, set up an independent adjudicator and impose much tougher penalties for misuse.
HAVE YOUR SAY!!! - What do you think about this story? Tell us here.
USING SOCIAL NETWORKS? SIMPLY CLICK THE ICONS TO SHARE THIS STORY WITH FRIENDS