The Governor-General Amendment (Salary) Bill 2019 (the Bill) was introduced in the House of Representatives on 14 February 2019 by the Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister and passed on 20 February 2019. The Bill seeks to amend the Governor-General Act 1974 to set the salary for the incoming Governor-General.
On 16 December 2018, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that the Queen had approved his recommendation to appoint His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley, AC DSC (Retd) as the next Governor-General. General Hurley is currently the Governor of New South Wales and will not be sworn in as Governor-General until 28 June 2019 to allow him to fulfil his duties in that role. The Queen also agreed to extend the appointment of the current Governor-General, Sir Peter Cosgrove, until that time.
Section 3 of the Australian Constitution provides that the salary of the Governor-General shall be £10,000 until the Parliament otherwise provides, and that the salary of the Governor-General ‘shall not be altered during his continuance in office’. The Parliament legislated to otherwise provide for the Governor-General’s salary by passing the Governor-General Act, and has since set the salary of each incoming Governor-General by amending this Act.
Main provisions—proposed salary
Item 1 of Schedule 1 to the Bill seeks to set the annual salary of the incoming Governor-General at $495,000. The annual salary of the current Governor-General is $425,000, hence the proposed salary represents an increase of 16.5 per cent. As explained by the Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister, it has been conventional practice to set the Governor-General’s salary by reference to the salary of the Chief Justice of the High Court. The base annual salary of the Chief Justice is determined by the Remuneration Tribunal and, as of 14 November 2018, stands at $596,220.
Given that the Constitution prevents the salary of the Governor-General from being altered during an incumbent’s time in office, the Assistant Minister further explained that the proposed salary is based on a ‘forecast of the Chief Justice's salary over the next five years using wages growth projections’, and takes into account the request of the incoming Governor-General that the salary be reduced by the amount of the Commonwealth funded military pension he will be entitled to receive during his term in office—a practice established by Sir William Deane in 1995 and continued by General Cosgrove.
The Bill commences on the day after Royal Assent. However item 2 of Schedule 1 to the Bill applies so that the increased salary does not have effect whilst General Cosgrove continues to hold office as Governor-General.