Published: 25 June 2015

 [3.37 p.m.]

Ms FORREST (Murchison) - Mr President, we have all said we should not be involved in setting our salaries or other allowances.  We have said it so many times I wonder why we are doing it again. 


Hopefully, this will be the last time, but it may not be because there are always opportunities for any government to bring in legislation that can reopen it, and through this process, if that was supported unamended, that possibility still exists.  It is important to put a few things on the record in relation to this bill.

It became a major issue when our salaries were linked to 85 per cent of a federal backbencher's salary, and there were other models around the different states, but that is what we had in Tasmania.  I found it an interesting way to assess our work values.  When the federal members received a significant pay rise a few years ago it was only on the front page of the media for a day or two and everyone got over it and moved on.  The decision was made here that it was not right that we remain linked to that arrangement because that would have flowed through to us the following year.  The decision was made to break that nexus.  We have had a number of salary freezes since that time because of the Global Financial Crisis and the tough economic times the state and the country were facing.


Every time we have debated the various changes, whether it should be a freeze, 2 per cent, or whatever - the last time we moved sending it to a tribunal to have a look at - we consistently said we should not be doing it, that we should be letting someone else do it.  I support this bill to enable that to happen.  I believe it is right the Tasmanian Industrial Commission is the body that is able and qualified, with the appropriate skill set, to do that.  They can look at the arrangements we have.  I am sure members have read or considered the report that they released, and from which other members have quoted.  They also make the point, and it was made during the whole consideration, that our jobs are different from senior SES-level public servants and most other people's in the private sector.  When you lose or leave your job, there is a redundancy or you have some entitlement.  When you stand for re-election, if you lose your seat, and this can happen to any one of us at any time, the day of the election your salary stops, bang, that is it.  There is no payout for us although there are members in the older scheme who will get a payout, but they are few and far between.


Mrs Taylor - That is true and it is also the case that other people have holiday pay and long service leave.  We do not have any of that, so it stops on the day.


Ms FORREST - That is right.  The day you either lose your seat or you resign, retire or do not recontest, it stops.  Up until that day you are working full-time.  The next day you do not have a job, you do not have any income, and you do not have any long service leave payment or annual leave, and our superannuation is less than most public servants' anyway.


Mr Valentine - Your leave from the House is at the behest of us.  It is only way you get it.


Ms FORREST - That is right.  We do not get paid and I am saying there is no payment when you leave.  Essentially, it suddenly stops.  I cannot think of another position where that would happen.  Some other members have talked about the community's misunderstanding of this, the big payout you get - not.  I was fascinated to read - I forget whether it was on social media or in the newspaper - about all these free meals we get - not.  All these free everything else we get - not.


Yes, we get provided with a taxpayer-funded car -


Mr Valentine - Someone on the telly decided we receive $300 000 a year.


Ms FORREST - Exactly not.  You can have some money in your salary or a car.  For me, a car is of much more benefit than that money because I use my car so much, as most members in big electorates away from Hobart do.  The majority of people who work in the sort of role we do for any private enterprise would have a car provided by the business.


There is this huge community misunderstanding about what is actually provided to members of parliament.  When you set people straight, they say, 'Oh, really?'  The media do us no service in this.  They do us quite a disservice because they know a lot of this but they choose not to correct people on talkback radio when they say things.  If a member of parliament rang in and said, 'Sorry, you're wrong, wrong, wrong,' then you look like you are being churlish.  You are in a bit of no-win situation.  We have to do this on a one-to-one basis and most people, when you explain it to them, they understand.  Many people say to me they would not do my job for quids, they do not know how I do it and I surely do not get paid enough.  I think that is nice of them to say that but I get the salary that is determined.  I want it to be determined by an independent body, not by people in this place.  It is important that the reality of it is understood.


Regardless of the model that is used in how the Industrial Commission's decision may be provided to the Parliament and then acted on, whichever way it goes from here, it could continue to be a political football, which is unfortunate.  We have the option here, as the Government proposed, of the disallowance process or, as has been suggested by the member for Rumney with his amendments, to remove that from the bill and then potentially have the government of the day or a private member bring forward a bill that does not accept the Industrial Commission's ruling.


I may not be right in saying this - I am sure the Leader will correct me if I am wrong - but if a member decided it was not good enough and wanted to bring in a private member's bill to increase it, unless it was the government doing that, an opposition or an independent member could not do that because you are imposing a cost on the state, and that's like a money bill.  I am getting a nod from the Leader's advisers.


If you wanted to say, 'No, it's too much, we're not going to accept it', you could just say that you did not want it anyway.  The provision is already in the current legislation, regardless of what we do with this.


Mr President, when the member for Rumney first proposed the amendment, I absolutely agreed in principal that we needed to get our hands off the wheel because this political interference could continue in couple of ways.  As the member for Elwick pointed out, when a disallowable instrument appears on our notice paper, it is not automatically approved.  If there is no motion to disallow it, it goes through and we do not actually have to debate it.  It does, in many respects, become the lesser of two evils.


Mr Valentine - But we will be the bogies.


Ms FORREST - Yes, I am getting to that.  But we will be bogies anyway.  It would not matter what colour government had brought in a bill like this.  We are being wedged right at the end of the financial year.  The start date will backdate it to 1 July, if the bill takes longer to go through.


I have a real issue with retrospectivity in legislation unless it is really necessary.  I am particularly concerned about retrospectivity in regard to our salaries.  That is why it needs to be dealt with here and now - so we do not have retrospectivity.  Imagine what the media would do with that?  The heading would say, 'MPs get big back pay', because the lower House did not deal with it until August or September.


Mrs Taylor - It is only 2 per cent.


Ms FORREST - I know it is only 2 per cent but that is how they will portray it though.  Two months of back pay at 2 per cent for four to eight weeks, whatever it is - you can see what I mean.


Mrs Taylor - I do.


Ms FORREST - That is what I am saying.  The disallowance process is not ideal, but there are other ways that governments -


Mrs Taylor - There has to be a mechanism for it.


Ms FORREST - That is right.  There is already a mechanism.


Mrs Taylor - The Parliament has to accept the TIC -


Ms FORREST - Yes, it has been enacted somehow.  It has to be put into -


Mrs Taylor - Nobody else can do it, only the Parliament.


Ms FORREST - Yes, that is right.  I will listen to the debate but in my view, it is the lesser of two evils.  We need a disallowance process as opposed to a bill coming through.


The member for Derwent spoke about the Labor Party's position on this.  I was pretty appalled by the carry-on in another place with the politicisation of this whole issue.  The other place rightly copped a bit of a smack-around in the media for that.  As far as the Labor Party's position, when Ms Giddings was premier, she went to the Parliament with the position of linking our salaries to SES level band 9.  As the premier at the time, she believed that was right.  I disagreed with her position on that.  I continue to disagree with her position on that, but she consistently says that.  I believe she has the right to be consistent in that, because I am being consistent in my view, as are most others here.  While people say that was political game playing, I believe she was being consistent.  Perhaps that is the Labor Party's position.  I am not making an excuse.  I am just making that point.  I disagreed with her then and I disagree with her now.  I believe this is the most appropriate way forward.


I am disappointed about the comment made by the member for Elwick, about this being the Government's legislation and it will live and die by it.  No, it will be the Parliament's legislation once we deal with it.  I remember a former treasurer who was challenged on the water and sewerage legislation - he said, 'Our legislation, brothers and sisters, this is our legislation.'  It was not his legislation; it was ours.  We will have to own it; we will have to wear it and any flak that comes with it.  If this legislation is supported by us and leaves the Parliament, it will belong to all of us.  We will need to take responsibility for that.


Mr President, my position remains consistent.  I believe we should not be involved in the setting of our salaries, conditions, terms of allowances and things like that.  The TIC is well versed and well placed to undertake that role.  I am not entirely enamoured with the provisions for the disallowance process, but I know there has to be a way of accepting the determination one way or another.  Regardless of whether that remains in or out, it will still be possible for the government of the day to bring forward legislation that would perhaps repoliticise the whole thing in a more negative and damaging way.


Mrs Taylor - To clarify what I said:  you are right in that it ends up being our legislation, but I meant that it is the Government that has actually proposed this bill.  The Government brought it in.  It is the Government; it has the right to propose legislation.  This is a House of review.


Ms FORREST - And we are reviewing it.


Mrs Taylor - And we are reviewing it.  If we accept that, yes it becomes ours.  At the moment, it is the Government's bill before us.  Therefore, the Government has proposed this with those clauses in it for disallowance.  If that is what the Government of the day thinks is the right way to go -


Ms FORREST - We can send them a different message, of course, as we do at times, but that is right.  Whatever leaves this Parliament is our legislation -


Mrs Taylor - Do I not always vote for the Government's legislation?


Ms FORREST - Kevin Bonham can tell the honourable member how she voted.  Just check his blog and he will tell her how she voted.


Mr President, those are my key points.  I am tired of debating this matter.  We need to get away from it.  Hopefully we will not have to come back to deal with it.  We will probably have a disallowable instrument on the Table at some stage in the next one to two years, looking at this matter, but that will not mean we have to have this whole debate again.  Hopefully that will not be the case.


[3.51 p.m.]


Go Back