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Canberra politicians win $7500 a year pay rise

Date

Kirsten Lawson

Pay rise for politicians: Remuneration Tribunal chairwoman Anne Cahill Lambert.

Pay rise for politicians: Remuneration Tribunal chairwoman Anne Cahill Lambert. Photo: Vikky Wilkes

ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher says while she argued against a big pay hike for Canberra politicians, she will not stand in the way of the increase of more than $7500 a year from July, awarded on Friday.

The ACT Remuneration Tribunal foreshadowed a similar increase again next year. The base pay rate for Assembly members will increase from $125,300 to $132,800.

But they will lose other perks to make up for the pay increase, with Remuneration Tribunal chairwoman Anne Cahill Lambert confident the cuts would cover the increase in pay.

Ms Gallagher said she had asked for a smaller increase in line with the pay rise for public servants, but the rates were set by an independent tribunal and "it is what it is". "I don't think there's ever a good time for a pay increase for a politician," she said, but insisted the politicians worked hard for their money. 

The deputy leader of the opposition is the big loser. To date, the deputy’s position has attracted a 45 per cent loading on top of the base salary (an extra $56,000 this year), but from the next election the loading will be significantly curtailed, to 15 per cent (or $20,000). Most jobs in the Assembly attract a loading – and the amounts remain the same under the new pay scheme, at 110 per cent on top of the base salary for the chief minister, down to 10 per cent for a committee chairperson.

The Remuneration Tribunal has also abolished travel for ministers’ spouses and the $24,000 travel allowance for non-ministers – a decision it brought forward last month after news that Liberals Giulia Jones and Vicki Dunne were spending most of the allowance on a visit to Europe to study prostitution laws. The tribunal wanted to ensure no one else would use the money before its decision came into effect, and in the process it put an end to a planned visit by Liberal Nicole Lawder to Britain to study community housing. It pointed out that members were also using this money to pay for staff travel, which was not envisaged.

It has banned Assembly members from using public funds to travel on party political business – a decision that will presumably put an end to the practice of many of claiming travel to party conferences and meetings.

It has abolished the $4000 mobile phone allowance and the $10,000 office allowance, and replaced it with a $15,000 “communication allowance”. The office allowance has been the subject of much controversy, with members using it for large-scale mailouts to voters in the lead-up to elections. The tribunal makes it clear the new allowance must not be used for political activity and warned it should not be saved up for using towards election time.

Instead of a car, Assembly members will get an allowance of $21,500 a year, plus a $2500 annual allowance for taxis and hire cars for official business.

And the tribunal has introduced a “resettlement allowance”, saying Assembly members who lost their seats could face significant hardship and difficulty finding work, and others who were “burnt out” might be put off resigning by the lack of redundancy pay. They will get two weeks’ base pay for each year in the Assembly, up to 12 weeks.

The tribunal’s decision pointed out that at $132,775, the base pay for Assembly members would still be the lowest of any MP in the country except Tasmania, and lower than senior executive members of the ACT public service. It had taken a “cautious” approach, given the expected increase in the number of politicians from 17 to 25 at the next election. But it foreshadowed a likely 6 per cent increase again next year.

Assembly pay rates have climbed steeply in 10 years, up $45,000, or more than 50 per cent on the base pay in 2004. 

Electoral Commissioner Phillip Green also won his bid for a pay rise, his pay brought into line with the members of the Human Rights Commission and others. Mr Green’s pay rises from $161,600 to $191,300, the same rate as the human rights, discrimination, health services and children and young person commissioners and others. Other statutory officer holders and the Public Service executives received 2 per cent.

The retired master of the Supreme Court, David Harper, received a further extension of his salary while he completes judgments outstanding since his retirement a year ago. The tribunal said there were six remaining judgements, which Mr Harper expected to have completed by the end of June. His extension expires at the end of October.

28 comments so far

  • I guess Katy isn't worried about Canberra's future economic issues if they all are getting pay rises? Hypocrite much?

    Commenter
    hmm
    Date and time
    May 02, 2014, 9:11AM
    • What a joke. As someone who works in the Assembly in an administrative role I can tell you that a number of MLAs do bugger all. Some, like Ms Gallagher are workaholics and deserve everything they get but the majority are taking money under false pretences. I cannot believe they are increasing the number of MLAs to twenty five as the Assembly already sits for the lowest number of days of any parliament in Australia. The reason they sit for such a small number of days is because there's nothing for them to do, now they're getting more for doing nothing?

      Commenter
      Money For Jam
      Date and time
      May 02, 2014, 9:40AM
      • I wish Joe Hockey could be engaged to sort out the ACT Government terrible lack of efficiency.

        Commenter
        dryduststorm
        Location
        Canberra
        Date and time
        May 03, 2014, 9:07AM
    • Cut minimum wages, screw pensioners but lets give the pollies more big pay rises.

      Commenter
      TuffGuy
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      May 02, 2014, 9:40AM
      • And what extra productivity gains are we going to see for this pay rise? How many extra days are the Assembly sit?

        Commenter
        Mike
        Date and time
        May 02, 2014, 9:40AM
        • I have a gret idea. Why not limit the pay rise so it is no more in percentage terms than that granted to ACT public servants? Or, since Canberra is about to get reamed by the Abbott government and we Canberrans (all of us, because it will harm business too) have to take one "for our country", the MLAs show real leadership and stand up to be counted.

          They could say "in this soon to be real budget crisis for Canberra, not the confected national one, we will completely reject this pay rise for our Territory's sake" and ask CEOs of all ACT Public Service organisations and ACT businesses to do the same for their salary.

          Does that sound like real leadership? Might even spread to the national level.

          I won't hold my breath waiting.........

          Commenter
          Foresooth
          Location
          Canberra
          Date and time
          May 02, 2014, 9:58AM
          • As the ACT local council only sits for 13 weeks a year will their pay be divided by 4??

            Commenter
            stoney
            Date and time
            May 02, 2014, 9:58AM
            • Well that is fiscally responsible in these times of Austerity.

              Commenter
              Outraged of Palmerston
              Date and time
              May 02, 2014, 10:11AM
              • $15K over 14 months, nice work if you can get it.

                Commenter
                SHUT UP WHEN I'M INTERUPTING
                Date and time
                May 02, 2014, 10:19AM
                • They have no right to expect more pay and perks for a job they willingly signed up to. Labor increases rates by 30% over two years and Canberra is still broke. They are out of touch with their constituents if they award themselves out of touch payrises, increased allowance and increased perks (at a time of increasing their numbers). And what is the outlook for a large number of their public service constituents facing the axe, no payrises and definitely no increased perks. If they feel under valued, under paid then find another job.

                  When will this spending madness stop (payrises, perks, $1billion light rail). It's us rate payers who will have to pick up the tab. Could someone please start a petition to stop this madness and to gauge interest in a council type set-up. Maybe benchmark against the likes of Wollongong Council.

                  Commenter
                  Unbelievable
                  Location
                  Canberra
                  Date and time
                  May 02, 2014, 11:22AM

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