Tuesday, 5 September 2006
Remuneration and Allowances for Holders of Public Office and Members of Parliament
Motion for Disapproval
I will take the interjection—the minister says that I should fess up. Now and again I do go on holiday, but the fact is that they are not aware—and I do not see why they should be—of the full range of duties and so on that parliamentarians engage in.
It is true that politicians are held in low regard by many Australians, and large segments of the public are opposed to any increase in salary or allowances for parliamentarians. My own view is that if parliamentarians’ salary entitlements and allowances—and I particularly refer to those of the states and territories, because it is better at the federal level—were properly audited and were transparent and open, you would get far less aggression, as people would know exactly what is going on and what things are worth.
In general, as for every other increase or change in salary and allowances that I have observed over the years, many members of the media and substantial numbers of voters will take a negative view. They are entitled to, of course, but our situation is that we have to decide whether we maintain the principle of an independent tribunal examining these matters and, if we do, whether we then decide that they have got it wrong and that we reject it—which we should do if we feel that way.
I note, in concluding my remarks, senior reporter Lenore Taylor’s article in the Australian Financial Review of Saturday, 2 September entitled ‘Legislate in haste ...’, which states:
There is a problem politicians are worried about but dare not raise in public, an issue upon which the major parties agree but haven’t had the stomach to act.
The problem is how to undo the cuts to parliamentary superannuation made after Mark Latham engaged in some populist pollie bashing early in 2004, and panicked Prime Minister John Howard into matching him.
I will not go through that whole article, but it essentially says that an inequity was produced. I stress that the Australian Democrats supported a reduction in superannuation entitlements for parliamentarians. I also stress that we believe it is better to reward people while they have the job rather than to excessively reward them after they have left the job. That is a particular opinion we have held for a long time. But it is undeniable that the outcome of those changes has caused consternation amongst a number of parliamentarians.
I recognise that, and I understand from Lenore Taylor’s article that in fact the Remuneration Tribunal is looking again at a number of these issues. If that is occurring, and I have not got information to hand that it is or is not, I think we should take the opportunity of this debate to request the Remuneration Tribunal to take a more holistic view so that they can start to think about settling this issue down, although I do not think you can ever settle it down completely. Madam Acting President, I have circulated notice of a motion that I would like to be voted on tomorrow. I missed the cut today and I want to ask leave to get it put in the Notice Paper for tomorrow. I have circulated it, so it is in front of the chamber. I am not asking for a vote on that motion now. I am merely asking for leave to give notice now.
I thank the chamber. I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:
That the Senate requests that, in an appropriate examination or review that is undertaken of the remuneration and entitlements of members and senators, the Remuneration Tribunal take a holistic view with respect to members’ and senators’ salary packages and allowances, what they need to do their jobs, and their superannuation entitlements.