MP’s salaries – a vexed issue.
As the matter of the Tasmanian Industrial Commission’s (TIC) determination regarding MP’s salaries has been a matter of public interest for some time, I thought it would be beneficial to make some comment through easily accessible means. The TIC determination reflects a catch-up resulting from a history of politically driven wage freezes for MP’s over many years that public servants have not been subject to.
Two years ago I opposed the wage freeze for public servants - nurses, teachers, ambulance officers, police and others - that was part of the current Government’s plan. I did not believe this was the right way to manage the budgetary challenges and would have resulted in all these public servants falling behind in a similar way MP’s have by repeated wage freezes over the past 6-7 years.
It is important to note some observations made by the TIC in their recent Report that informed the recent MP salary determination.
The TIC stated from 1 July 2005 to 1 July 2010, compared to general public service positions, MP salary movements were approximately one third to one half less than what the salary movements were across the public sector.
By way of recent comparison, from 1 July 2010 until now in 2016, MPs have moved up 8.2 per cent; general public service 16.6 per cent; nurses 17.6 per cent; teachers 17.8 per cent; and some police 27.1 per cent.
In terms of community expectations, I have consistently heard from the community that MP’s should not be determining their own salaries. Whilst some in the community have criticised and threatened me over my decision, there have also been many who have supported me and acknowledged that ‘they wouldn’t do the job for quids’.
Although I would prefer to discuss this issue and my decision as to whether or not to accept the independent Tasmanian Industrial Commission’s determination in a two-way conversation I thought It may assist if I put a few key points here to inform interested people about why I voted the way I did on the decision. I remain happy to speak directly with anyone who wishes to.
My view has been expressed many times and has always been consistent – I share the community expectation that MP’s should not be involved in setting their salaries. I believe this is the only way to remove political interference from the process and I have been disappointed that all Tasmanian political parties have continued to play politics with this matter that has significant community interest. Regardless of the decision if MP’s are involved in setting their salaries it will always be a political decision not based on anything other than what seems politically palatable at the time in the context of the political cycle. This process is wrong and we have done it too many times over recent years by forcing wage freezes or even determining small increases.
I have consistently stated that regardless of the TIC’s decision I would accept it and I have remained true to my word. As a result, MP’s will also most likely lose some other benefits such as Committee sitting allowances that apply to a small number of Standing Committees of the Parliament (which I agree should be considered a normal aspect of our role) and possibly other measures that are unlikely to be commented on in public discourse.
This is similar to a TIC decision some years ago when the decision by the TIC to remove the option to fly intrastate meant I could no longer use a very convenient service from Wynyard where I live, to Hobart for Parliamentary sittings. This service previously had enabled me to more effectively manage my travel times, be less tired from all the kilometres I drive in the course of undertaking my role and enabled me to work during the travel time. I accepted this at the time with no complaint and just got on with my job.
I appreciate that many in the community are not happy with my decision to accept this TIC Determination. I have repeatedly said I did not want to be involved in setting my salary and that the independent body charged with such determinations. The Tasmanian Industrial Commission, who makes determinations in a range of wage and salary rates and conditions, and tax payers pay them to do this, is the appropriate body and I believe it was appropriate to accept their determination.
I work hard in my community and seek to represent my constituents as well as I can, always acknowledging that not everyone will always agree with my decisions. That is the case for all MP’s. I have always made myself available to discuss differing or similar views, particularly with those who may not or do not agree with me as I find this creates an atmosphere, in the majority of cases, of mutual respect and the ability to agree to disagree on a particular point. I have always, and will continue to always listen to and consider fully, alternate positions and viewpoints in forming my final position. I welcome robust debates and the opportunity to be challenged on any matter.
I have remained consistent on this position regarding MP’s salaries as I am quite certain that the community expectation is that MP’s will not determine the salary we should receive. I have always worked hard in the Parliament, including the large amount of Committee work I do (the vast majority of which attracts no additional payment) and I enjoy my role in representing the large, diverse, beautiful and challenging electorate of Murchison and the constituents within it as well as all Tasmanians. The legislation we pass thought the Parliament effects all of us and it is important to consider as many viewpoints as possible in making such important decisions in the Parliament.
As I have noted, I am always happy to discuss these matters with the people of Tasmania and enjoy serving you all. I look forward to continuing in that role.