“The whole thing is just appalling, it’s embarrassing, very few people would believe that MPs deserve such a huge increase,” says Opposition leader Tina Browne.
She explained that in January this year, the Remuneration Tribunal met with the Opposition caucus to briefly discuss proposed salary adjustments for MPs and Parliamentary offices (Speaker, Deputy Speaker, Leader of the Opposition, Deputy Opposition leader, Leader of the House, government whip and Opposition whip).
The tribunal also gave the Opposition the 2012 Colman Report which examined the remuneration of MPs and Parliamentary offices. Also presented to the Opposition for input was the tribunal’s own proposed remuneration adjustments.
Browne says the report suggested a $12,000 increase across the board. The report also recommended that the increases should be performance based.
The tribunal took the Colman’s $12,000 recommendation a step further and added a CPI (Consumer Price Index) component of 15 per cent on top of the recommended $12,000 rise. The tribunal also included bumping up the salaries of the Deputy Speaker, Deputy Opposition leader, Leader of the House, government whip and Opposition whip – this was described in the Tribunal’s document as “proposed responsibility loadings allowance (10 per cent of base salary).
These two add-ons by the Renumeration Tribunal would have seen MP and parliamentary offices salaries go up between 24 per cent to 28 per cent. The total cost of this would have been $1,240,000 ($1.24 million) extra to the country.
The tribunal undertook to return to the Opposition caucus after it had collected input from all the agencies in its brief, and to include the input of the Democratic Party MPs. This did not happen.
“I do not oppose a review of MP salaries and agree that it should be performance based. The problem is that it is difficult to justify an increase given the number of days Parliament sits per year,” Browne said.
She pointed out that between 2010 to April 2019 under the Cook Islands Party administration, there have been only about 156 Parliament sitting days, yet during that same time period there were almost 2200 working days.
“These dismal CIP influenced statistics don’t merit the reward of a pay increase for MPs, especially one as high as 45 per cent.”
Browne says she accepts that MPs obligations to their constituencies is onerous, “… we did make a suggestion to the Tribunal that an option would be to increase the Constituency Fund of each MP to $20,000 if the size of the constituency warranted this.”
She adds the Democrats also have a concern with the justification behind a non-MP speaker’s salary being equal to that of an MP who is the Speaker – both are set at $85,000 per annum.
“Whilst an MP Speaker will have two roles, being the Speaker as well as and MP, a non-MP Speaker will have only one role – again we submitted that this should be performance based.
“We understand the MP salary increase that has just been ordered by this government is a 45 per cent increase. This is a total cost in excess of $2million and the tax paying public will not be welcoming of this self-rewarding system of the current government.”
Browne says she has yet to receive a copy of the recommendations of the Tribunal.
“How on Earth can this government justify the huge disparity between the MP increases on one hand and the dismal increase for public servants on the other? The only valid explanation, in my view, is the PM and DPM are again handing out lollies to the CIP MPs to keep them from straying.
“Unfortunately, the increase has also benefited the Demo MPs, something I am certain that they detest but have had no option or say in this matter.
“We are getting dragged along with the government and our recommendations have been ignored and basically the Finance minister has just led their CIP stampede to the trough.”
- Democratic Party