The salaries of the ACT's local politicians, senior public servants and judges have been frozen amid the coronavirus-induced economic downturn.
The ACT Remuneration Tribunal has confirmed that it won't boost the salaries of the territory's most senior public officials this year, agreeing to a request first made by Chief Minister Andrew Barr as the pandemic forced Australia into lockdown.
It means the Chief Minister's total salary package will remain at $353,800, while the heads of ACT government directorates will continue to receive about $350,000.
Mr Barr wrote to the tribunal in April to "strongly request" that it pause any proposed pay rises for MLAs, public service executives and statutory office holders, including the ACT auditor general and integrity commissioner.
"The ACT government has been clear that we need to work together as a community to share the burden of the economic damage wrought by the crisis," Mr Barr wrote in a letter to tribunal chair Sandra Lambert.
"Many Canberrans have been suddenly unemployed; others' businesses have been forced to close or have lost a significant portion of their revenue."
Mr Barr did not push for a public sector-wide freeze because he didn't want to deny a pay rise to teachers, healthcare workers and other front-line staff, which account for the bulk of the ACT public service. Gladys Berejiklian's NSW government had pushed for a 12-month pay freeze for all of its public servants, but the move was blocked by state parliament's Upper House.
The ACT Chief Minister and senior treasury officials briefed the tribunal following the handing down of last month's economic statement, which laid bare the financial hit from the pandemic.
After meeting on September 2, the tribunal agreed to the pay freeze, which extends to the ACT's judges, ACAT members and the territory's director of public prosecutions.
"Given the current COVID-19 pandemic, the impact on economic conditions and community expectations, the tribunal has determined that no adjustments should be made to remuneration, allowances and other entitlements of office holders in its jurisdiction at this time," the tribunal said in a note explaining the decision.
The tribunal said it would continue to monitor the ACT's position and make "appropriate decisions" when the territories economic and budget circumstances were clearer next year.
Correspondence published by the tribunal showed Mr Barr had been cautious about granting pay rises to the ACT's politicians and senior public officials even before the coronavirus lockdown.
In a letter dated February 20, Mr Barr said that if the tribunal was considering a boost to MLAs' salaries, the government's view was that an increase at the "lower end of the scale" would be appropriate given the economic headwinds faced by all states and territories.
He recommended that any pay rises for directorate bosses and statutory office holders should not exceed that offered to the broader ACT public service.