01/07/2003 - 22:00

State Scence - MPs’ pay out of step

01/07/2003 - 22:00


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THE re-emergence of former WA Governor Major-General Michael Jeffery as Australia’s top vice-regal promptly raised the question of public

State Scence - MPs’ pay out of step

THE re-emergence of former WA Governor Major-General Michael Jeffery as Australia’s top vice-regal promptly raised the question of public officers’ salaries, because his appointment involves a hefty 17 per cent increase over his predecessor’s remuneration.

Both the Government and Opposition promptly agreed to him being paid the higher salary of $365,000 – exactly $1000 a day – a marked boost on that received by his two predecessors.

Sir William Deane received $135,000, but it was untaxed, while the luckless Peter Hollingworth’s $310,000 package was taxed.

Even so one would be hard-pressed arguing that a salary of $1000/day means Major-General Jeffery would be overpaid.

The currently controversial Harvey Norman electrical franchise chain chief executive Gerry Harvey, when quizzed some 18 months ago on private sector executives’ salaries, revealed he received $1,000/day.

Mr Harvey added he’d find it difficult to justify a daily income over that figure but never saw it as too much for good performing CEOs.

Surely, then, Australia’s top constitutional position, and 18-months on, is worth that. 

Recently Federal MPs were awarded a 4 per cent pay rise, which took effect this week, so their basic annual rate has reached $102,760.

Interestingly, that’s below what WA State MPs presently earn.

Those in WA’s 91-strong MP contingent receive a handsome $103,300 annually, topped up with a 12.5 per cent annual super contribution from Treasury (for new MPs), meaning they actually reap nearly $116,000.

And this week marked the closure of submissions for another review of their salaries with a determination, so there’s an increase of at least $2,000 to follow.

What this means is that WA’s MPs are currently the highest paid in Australia; and there’s no sign of them falling behind others in the foreseeable future.

WA is out of step with other parliaments because it and the Australian Capital Territory have tied their MPs’ salaries to the basic Federal level.

MPs from New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland have set their basic levels at $500 – or about $10 per week – below the Federal rate, while South Australia’s is $2000, or about $40/week, below the Federal level.

Tasmanian members, on the other hand, earn 85.19 per cent of the Federal rate, so about 17 per cent below WA members.

It should also be noted that 32 of WA’s 91 MPs – so over a third of them – have additional allowances on top of their current, but soon to be increased, $103,300 basic rate.

The Premier Geoff Gallop, for instance, draws an additional 132 per cent of his basic salary – $136,356 more.

That means he receives $239,656, or about $125,000

less than Major-General Jeffery.

Dr Gallop’s deputy and Treasurer, Eric Ripper, receives a top-up of slightly over $100,000, taking his earnings to over $200,000.

WA’s ministers get top-ups of just more than $80,000 and several of their colleagues with designated parliamentary posts qualify for top-ups of between 80 and 45 per cent of base salary, between $46,000 and $82,000 extra.

Moreover, WA’s electoral allowances compare favourably with those paid elsewhere.

It’s therefore not exaggerating to say WA’s parliamentary contingent is Australia’s salary trailblazer.

However, none of these figures – which average wage earners would understandably envy – are being highlighted to draw criticism. Far from it.

Learned and intelligent MPs should be paid well.

They should also travel widely, hopefully always looking out for ways and means of improving WA’s polity.

Nor is State Scene complaining about the recently adopted non-contributory superannuation scheme, which has basically placed them in line with what most employees now qualify for.

One is compelled, however, to say that when this scheme was adopted the non-contributory component was 9 per cent, which was identical to most employees.

However, it was recently, and quietly, boosted by more than 30 per cent, to 12.5 per cent.

That can hardly be justified.

But State Scene does have a complaint – and one worth publicising – because so few electors know it exists.

It is a benefit that Australia’s 76 senators and 149 members of the House of Representatives are qualifying for and which should be immediately abolished.

If nothing else it’s a blatant rort, one Prime Minister John Howard, with his love of being seen as a backer of Aussie battlers, would have difficulty publicly justifying.

Called the Members of Parliament (Life Gold Pass) 2002 Act, it qualifies MPs who have served 20 years for 25 (yes, 25) free business class airfares annually, with their spouses, and for life.

This rort should in fact be dubbed the Members of Parliament (Life of Riley) Act.

Moreover, after retired MPs die their spouses qualify for 10 free flights annually until death.

In other words, many of the now serving 225 Federal members will reap this rort, costing taxpayers up to about $100,000 per ex-MP annually on retirement, or nearly the same that a working WA backbencher presently earns.

Can you believe it?

Scrap this blatant gravy-train rort immediately Mr Howard and Mr Simon Crean, Democrats and Greens.


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