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Letter: Give police and nurses MPs’ big pay rises

Saturday June 22, 2019 Published in Letters to the Editor
Deputy PM Mark Brown and PM Henry Puna. Deputy PM Mark Brown and PM Henry Puna.

Kia orana editor,

When I heard of parliament sitting into the night this month, I said to my wife that the MPs were trying to justify their impending salary rise.

The news MPs will get a basic salary of $72,000 (up from $50,000) is pathetic. And to think the smoke signals being sent out by some MPs about a rumoured $12,000 increase were just that – a whole lot of hot air.

In yesterday’s article (PM’s pay tops $152,000 as MPs get big pay hike, p1), the Remuneration Tribunal reportedly took into account the increase in salaries of senior public servants, the consumer price index and the state of the economy over the years.

I note the tribunal chairman did not mention anything about performance! I can think of only one MP who has been in for more than three consecutive terms and if anything, he should have been the only MP to be consulted as to whether MPs should get a pay rise or not.

What exactly does a MP do to deserve a pay rise? What is an MP’s outputs each day; each week; each year; each term? I am assuming they have annual leave and sick leave entitlements – but how can you go on leave when you only attend parliament for 20 half-days a year? Parliament has only sat for 11 days this calendar year – and four of them were half days.

Currently a backbench MP pockets just under $1600 per fortnight, after deductions. But what does she or he do during the week? Go to a caucus meeting; voluntarily attend a workshop, function or public consultation; talk to a few constituents who might come around home? How many hours do they “work” each week?

How many MPs were earning $50,000 before they entered parliament? Three? Four?

This is the sort of data that the remuneration tribunal would need in order to come up with its recommendation.

Obviously the tribunal believes MPs should be on par with heads of ministries, who are earning between $60,000 and $130,000. Talk about being overpaid when there are frontline public service staff in police, justice and health who could do with a pay rise. If only their salaries were subject to the remuneration tribunal on an annual basis, they would receive a hefty pay rise every year!

Compare this with a female checkout operator in the private sector who is on her feet for eight hours each day. She probably takes home just over $300 after a 40-hour week (no more than $17,000 per annum). If she arrives at work late, she will probably get docked. If she wants to leave work early to play golf on a Friday afternoon, she will have to take leave.

Last month I read that a New Zealand MP was suspended from Parliament and docked a day’s pay. In Cook Islands, an MP can be overseas for a few months and still collect a full salary!

One may remember a certain New Zealand prime minister called John Key. He never drew his prime ministerial salary but instead directed it to a certain trust to be used for a specific community purpose.

I wonder if the Opposition is strong enough to do the same. Direct any proposed increases on individual salaries to an account that can be diverted to some community/constituency benefit! If MPs are going to pay for things personally, then let’s have some accountability and transparency so that we can see exactly where the money is going. We all know that a one-off clothing allowance doesn’t just get spent on clothing!

If I had the opportunity to present a submission to the tribunal – I would have recommended an annual pay rise for MPs, based on 35 cents per hour (the proposed amount being added to the minimum wage rate) for each hour spent in parliament the previous year. And if the year’s total sitting hours are less than the previous year, then the salary should be reduced the following year!

- Moana Moeka’a

Ruatonga