On 24 March the Special Minister of State, Hon Gary Gray, introduced the Remuneration and other legislation amendment bill 2011
. This bill provides, among other matters, for the Remuneration Tribunal to determine MP’s base salary, currently $136 640, and ends the Parliament’s ability to disallow the remuneration determinations, that is senators’ and members’ pay increases. The Bill also requires the Tribunal, an independent statutory authority, to publish its reasons for the determination.
Since 1990 the Remuneration Tribunal has only had an advisory power with regard to the annual allowance (or base salary). After the relevant determinations are tabled, Parliament may resolve to disapprove (disallow) the determinations. In 1974 Parliament disallowed the Tribunal’s determination increasing the annual allowance to $20 000 per annum. In the thirty years since then Parliament has also modified determinations, postponed increases and enacted reduced allowances previously determined by the Tribunal. The most recent example of wage restraint was the pay freeze
that occurred from 1 July 2008.
This legislation implements the first of the recommendations of the Review of Parliamentary Entitlements (the Belcher Review) which had been established in September 2009. The report
of the Belcher review was also released on 24 March 2011 following almost 12 months consideration by the Government. The Government believes that this reform will boost the transparency and integrity of the parliamentary entitlements framework.
The Belcher Review has drawn a distinction between remuneration, that is salary, and ‘tools of trade”, that is entitlements such as office facilities and transport and recommends that each be dealt with separately. The former will be determined by the Remuneration Tribunal and the latter to be covered by a single piece of legislation to be administered by the minister. It is recommended that the Remuneration Tribunal undertake a work value assessment of parliamentary remuneration. It is envisaged that this will increase transparency and decrease the complexity and duplication in administering the entitlements regime. The Minister’s media release
identifies reforms recommended by the Belcher Review that the Government has already implemented such as Opposition staffing, amendments to the printing and communications entitlements and expanded reporting of MPs expenditure.
The government has released the report for discussion of the issues it raises and for further consideration
of its other recommendations by the Remuneration Tribunal.
Other key recommendations of the Belcher Review include:
- Rolling in electorate allowance and overseas study travel with the base salary
- Ending the Gold Pass scheme and severance travel scheme from the next election for the 44th Parliament
- Stopping the use of the printing and communications allowance when an election is announced