Tuesday, 5 September 2006
Remuneration and Allowances for Holders of Public Office and Members of Parliament
Motion for Disapproval
We are facing a very difficult decision in this place today. I was one of those—as, I recall, was Senator Brown—who agreed that parliamentarians should not be setting their own wages and that it made sense for our pay to be linked to a public service position. You could argue about the level at which we might have been linked but, nonetheless, the idea was that we would not be responsible for determining when and if we were to receive wage increases. In that sense, we have a system which works reasonably well.
Our dilemma this time, however, is that the increase would appear to be out of proportion to wages generally and the CPI. In fact, it is more than double the CPI and it is almost double wage price indexation. That presents us with a real difficulty. We say the Remuneration Tribunal are the body that should determine this but, when they come up with an answer which is clearly out of step with what is going on in the community, that gives us a difficulty. We will be pilloried in the press and we will be criticised by members of the community, regardless of our vote. If we vote against this disallowance motion, we will be challenged to put into a charity the money that we would otherwise not have received. Maybe some of us will do that; I do not know. If we vote against this, we will be seen as greedy and self-serving.
The problem for me is that, over the last few years, we have seen great benefits flow to those who are on higher incomes. I regard parliamentarians as being on high incomes. As I said, I doubled my salary when I became a parliamentarian, because I was a mere teacher when I came into this place. There are people who do quite responsible jobs and receive around half the wage we receive.