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Greiner swallows entitlement cuts

Date

Anna Patty

"The changes are as agreed. That is end of [the] matter" ... former NSW premier Nick Grenier has accepted his reduced entitlements.

"The changes are as agreed. That is end of [the] matter" ... former NSW premier Nick Grenier has accepted his reduced entitlements. Photo: Tamara Voninski

Former NSW premier, Nick Greiner, yesterday said he would not take legal action against the O'Farrell government in response to its decision to cut back his taxpayer-funded entitlements.

The Premier, Barry O'Farrell, wanted to slash the lifelong entitlements of former premiers but stopped short of doing so to avoid the threat of legal action.

Instead, Mr O'Farrell reduced combined entitlements to Mr Greiner and former premiers Bob Carr and Neville Wran by $500,000, from $1.6 million last year to $1.1 million in 2012-13.

Each of the three former premiers produced a letter which guaranteed their government entitlements for life. The former premiers ''highlighted the legal validity of those letters'', a senior government source said.

Mr Greiner, who was NSW premier for four years between 1988 and 1992, yesterday said he did not plan to take any further action in response to his reduced entitlements. ''The changes are as agreed. That is end of [the] matter,'' he said.

A spokesman for Mr O'Farrell said the Premier would not press the matter further.

The changes mean future premiers who hold office for five years or more will only receive entitlements for 12 months after they retire from Parliament.

The government review of entitlements said continued provision of public support at a cost of $500,000 each year for the three long-serving former premiers ''exceeds any reasonable assessment of the community's expectations''.

‘‘Nevertheless, these former office holders have received public support for many years and continue in public life. Continuing public support is warranted, but at a lower level,’’ the review said.

The government has decided to cancel all public transport for all other office holders other than the three former premiers. But it is still reviewing entitlements to a gold rail pass.

Former premier Nathan Rees, who is still serving in parliament, will lose his entitlement to a self-drive car under the changes. But former premiers Barry Unsworth, John Fahey and Morris Iemma will still have access to a car on request for official government functions.

The former Labor MP and President of the NSW Legislative Council, Meredith Burgman, said the government’s decision to cut back post-office entitlements was a good one.

‘‘It is a sensible approach to the problem of former premiers being seen to still be attached to the public purse,’’ she said.

The former speaker of the lower house, Richard Torbay, said he agreed ‘‘it shouldn’t be every politician that gets entitlements’’.

‘‘Former premiers and prime ministers are a special category and the public interest is served by them being available for [special engagements],’’ he said.

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