Parliamentary Remuneration Act 1989: Disallowance of Parliamentary Remuneration Amendment (Deputy-Speaker) Regulation 2004
PARLIAMENTARY REMUNERATION ACT 1989: DISALLOWANCE OF PARLIAMENTARY REMUNERATION AMENDMENT (DEPUTY-SPEAKER) REGULATION 2004
The DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. Patricia Forsythe): Pursuant to sessional orders the question is: That the motion proceed as business of the House.
The House divided.
Reverend Dr Moyes
Mr Della Bosca
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion by the Hon. Michael Gallacher agreed to:
That the matter proceed forthwith.
The Hon. MICHAEL GALLACHER (Leader of the Opposition) [3.45 p.m.]: I move:
That under section 41 of the Interpretation Act 1987, this House disallows the Parliamentary Remuneration Amendment (Deputy-Speaker) Regulation 2004 published in Government Gazette No. 51, dated 5 March 2004, page 1014, and tabled in this House on 9 March 2004.
I have moved this vitally important motion on behalf of the Opposition seeking the disallowance of the Parliamentary Remuneration Amendment (Deputy-Speaker) Regulation in the interests of ensuring the public accountability of members of this Parliament. As honourable members are aware, the regulation has given Mr John Price, the honourable member for Maitland and Deputy-Speaker in the other place, an additional salary rate that is 30 per cent higher than the basic salary of a member of Parliament [MP] and an expense allowance equal to 20 per cent of the basic salary of an MP. Earlier this month we saw media reports stating that the effect of the regulation would be to increase Mr Price's earnings from just under $137,000 per year to $153,000 per year.
The Opposition has taken this position for three fundamental reasons. The first relates to procedure. Obviously, the increase in the Deputy-Speaker's salary and allowance was made by regulation provided for under section 6 (4) of the Parliamentary Remuneration Act 1999, which provides that regulations may amend or substitute schedule 1 to that Act. In other words, changes to the additional salary and expense allowances payable to recognised office holders can be made by way of regulation without reference to the Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal or the Parliament. The Government is well aware that, because additional salary and expense allowances for recognised office holders are covered under part 2 of the Act as parliamentary remuneration and not under part 3 of the Act as additional entitlements, their actions on behalf of the Deputy-Speaker would not be subject to the scrutiny of the Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal.
During the period leading up to the 2004 budget, which I predict will slash to the bone grants from the State Government to small community groups, one would not think that we would be confronted with the Government using this lack of outside scrutiny to take full advantage of legislation to give the honourable member for Maitland an undeserved pay rise. The second reason the Coalition opposes the regulation is that the so-called extra workload of the Legislative Assembly's Deputy-Speaker does not justify an increase in his salary or allowance at this time. The office of Deputy-Speaker was created after the 1999 State election, a fairly recent innovation, and used by the Carr Government as—and we said this at the time and still believe it—a reward sinecure for a loyal factional warrior who won the seat of Maitland. The member for Maitland has held the position of Deputy-Speaker since that time.
Previously the position provided the honourable member for Maitland with a $20,400 increase in salary and a $10,200 expense allowance on top of the basic MP's salary. As a result of the regulation his basic salary will be increased by $30,060, and his expense allowance will now creep up to $20,400. However, the extra workload, whether we are talking about 1999 or 2004, is not onerous. This month Mr Price told the Daily Telegraph that he sits in the Speaker's Chair for an average of two to three hours each sitting day. On the basis that the other place will sit 67 days this year, it will be in session for a total of about 200 hours in the course of year. In addition, there are members in the other place who undertake the task of Acting-Speaker—similar to the way in which members in this place undertake the role of Deputy-President—to assist in chairing proceedings. They do not receive extra remuneration, because extra remuneration is not necessary. Surprisingly, the Deputy-Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, Mr Price, admits that although he did not lobby for the pay rise and certainly was not seeking one, he has defended the increase. That is interesting when one considers that he was happy with what he was already receiving.
In the Legislative Council, the member who holds the position equivalent to the role of the Deputy-Speaker in the Legislative Assembly is Deputy-President the Hon. Amanda Fazio, but she does not receive additional remuneration for fulfilling that role. Schedule 1 to the Parliamentary Remuneration Act 1989 does not provide for any such entitlement, and at this point in time nor should it. I certainly hope that the Hon. Amanda Fazio will not use this regulation as a precedent for an approach to the Premier to seek extra remuneration for holding her position. I give notice to the honourable member that if she does so, the Opposition will move for disallowance of that regulation as well.
I summarise the Opposition's position by saying that in addition to the absence of any evidence of extra workload involved in fulfilling the position of Deputy-Speaker in the Legislative Assembly, there is simply not enough justification for the increase in salary and allowance that is provided for in the regulation. In 1999 the Opposition dubbed the position of Deputy-Speaker as a Labor Party jobs-for-the-boys measure for the benefit of the honourable member for Maitland, and the regulation we are debating confirms that nothing has changed. The third reason the Opposition opposes the regulation, and it is of equal importance to the two I have already mentioned, is particularly relevant to current circumstances in New South Wales.
Earlier I alluded to numerous examples of continuing and ongoing mismanagement and waste by this Government over the past 12 months since the 2003 State election. Instances have been revealed daily. Without a doubt, there is daily exposure of the sheer neglect by this Government in its various areas of responsibility. Some examples that readily come to my mind include the whole Millennium trains fiasco, the complete failure of the Sydney rail system which occurred last month, and the disgraceful events involving the Camden and Campbelltown hospitals. Despite the boasting by the Treasurer of budget surpluses, he has refused to rule out tax increases and spending cuts in the forthcoming budget. Currently the people of New South Wales are confronted with the likelihood of budget cuts across areas affecting every aspect of life in this State, yet at this time the Government takes the opportunity to give one of its chosen sons a helping hand.
It is clear that, under Labor, this State is heading into deficit. Already we have seen the Premier wasting public money on television advertisements in a desperate attempt to blame the Commonwealth instead of himself and his Ministers for the financial shortcomings and performance of New South Wales. The most recent example was $21 million of taxpayers' funds lost on the failed Austeel Pty Ltd project and the refusal by the Premier, Mr Carr, to prevent Labor members of Parliament undertaking their Easter junket to Japan. Despite funding shortfalls for essential services and capital works that the New South Wales Government should be providing, this Government can still find some extra money to top up the incomes of faithful party servants under very dubious circumstances. One only has to examine the electorate of Maitland to appreciate some of the matters that need to be addressed.
In Dungog and Woodberry the local community is calling for airconditioning of classrooms. I am sure that the additional money that is provided for in the regulation would be well received by students and their parents in Dungog and Woodberry who are calling for some respite from the summer heat in the Hunter Valley. People who have been attending Maitland TAFE recently found out that their courses will be significantly cut. Approximately 25 students have been left in the lurch in the Maitland electorate. I am sure that the additional money provided to increase the salary and allowance of the honourable member for Maitland would be well and truly welcomed by the people who live in the Maitland electorate to ensure that the students are able to continue their studies. The Carr Government is not able to find money for important services such as education, but can certainly find some largesse in the Treasury coffers to top up the salary of a member of Parliament in his capacity as the Deputy-Speaker. Instead of providing for funding for services in Maitland, the Government is providing more funding to benefit the area's member of Parliament¯who is, of course, a Labor mate.
In conclusion, I reiterate that the Opposition is putting a fair proposition. Circumstances in New South Wales draw into question the commitment of the Government in proceeding with the additional remuneration for the honourable member for Maitland. The terms of the motion are that under section 41 of the Interpretation Act 1987, this House disallows the Parliamentary Remuneration Amendment (Deputy-Speaker) Regulation 2004 published in Government Gazette No. 51, dated 5 March 2004, page 1014, and tabled in this House on 9 March 2004. I commend the motion to honourable members.
The Hon. IAN MACDONALD (Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries) [3.55 p.m.]: The office of Deputy-Speaker was specifically established to provide support for the Presiding Officer. The Executive Council has approved an increase in the salary and expense allowance payable to the Deputy-Speaker of the Legislative Assembly. The increased allowances recognise the specific functions and responsibilities of the Deputy-Speaker, and these responsibilities, as distinct from those of other officeholders, warrant the level of remuneration. Consequently, the Government opposes the motion.
Ms LEE RHIANNON [3.55 p.m.]: The Greens support the motion. One would have to ask what is so special about the member for Maitland, Mr John Price. Suddenly that member of Parliament is worth an additional $16,000 a year, yet no submission has been made to the Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal and no explanation has been given by the Premier, apart from a few words in the Government Gazette.
The Hon. Catherine Cusack: And there has been no explanation from the Minister at the table.
Ms LEE RHIANNON: I totally agree with that interjection—there has been no explanation from the Minister at the table. I was looking forward to hearing it.
The Hon. Melinda Pavey: So was I.
Ms LEE RHIANNON: Yes. We are all waiting for the explanation. It must be very embarrassing for the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, Mr Macdonald, who has to carry the can. I had hoped to hear about how hard is the job of the Deputy-Speaker, Mr Price. If his job is so hard, I would really like the Government to tell us why. Is he stressed because he missed out on stepping into the shoes of the former Speaker, John Murray, and picking up all those workaholic overseas trips that are awarded to the Speaker? The Government should tell us if Mr Price has to work hard to keep his eyes on the behaviour of the honourable member for Murray-Darling, Mr Peter Black.
The Hon. Amanda Fazio: Point of order: My point of order should be well known to the Hon. Lee Rhiannon. This debate is on whether there should be disallowance of a regulation to provide the Deputy-Speaker of the Legislative Assembly with additional salary and allowances. It is not an opportunity for Ms Lee Rhiannon to launch into a personal attack on the occupant of the position. While I found the rest of her contribution quite interesting, though not surprising, I ask you, Madam Deputy-Speaker, to rule that the if honourable member wishes to make a personal attack on the office or position of the Deputy-Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, she should do so by way of a substantive motion.
The Hon. Duncan Gay: To the point of order: Ms Lee Rhiannon has a very nasty habit of making an imputation, disguised as a debating point, about people imbibing alcohol, and she has done so again. Whenever she is not winning an argument she uses that unfortunate tactic, and she should be stopped. The arguments she was advancing were interesting and stood up better than the slur that she caston the member of the other place. Frankly, one does not have to be drunk to be silly, and Ms Lee Rhiannon has just demonstrated that.
Ms LEE RHIANNON: To the point of order: I was not slurring the behaviour of Mr John Price.
The Hon. Duncan Gay: You do it all the time.
Ms LEE RHIANNON: I did not interrupt the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I did not slur the behaviour of the honourable member for Maitland, and I draw attention to the inconsistency in approach to personal attacks, which is a matter of concern to me. I hope that you, Madam Deputy-President, will allow me to continue with my contribution, which will help to throw some light on the motion that is before the House.
The Hon. Ian Macdonald: To the point of order: Ms Lee Rhiannon always comes into this House and makes the most outrageous comments that she can about anyone and everyone who is in her sights at any given moment.
Ms LEE RHIANNON: You ought to talk. What about what you have said about my family?
The Hon. Ian Macdonald: I have not said much about her family at all.
Ms LEE RHIANNON: You have.
The Hon. Ian Macdonald: Come off it.
Ms LEE RHIANNON: It was disgraceful.
The Hon. Ian Macdonald: Ms Lee Rhiannon came in here and attacked members personally.
Ms LEE RHIANNON: I did not attack anybody.
The Hon. Ian Macdonald: What you did—
The DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. Patricia Forsythe): Order! This is not a debate. I ask the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries to return to his point of order.
The Hon. Ian Macdonald: I agree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the Hon. Amanda Fazio, who said that Ms Lee Rhiannon was personally attacking people in the other Chamber. She should do that by way of substantive motion, rather than coming in here and constantly slurring members of either House. The slur was not about the Deputy-Speaker, it was about the member for Murray-Darling.
Ms Sylvia Hale: To the point of order: Ms Rhiannon was obviously canvassing the range of duties that the Deputy-Speaker is obliged to undertake, and during that process she referred to behaviour that was not totally becoming of members of either House. Not one member of the public would consider that behaviour as becoming in any way. She referred also to the onerous duties of overseas trips that had to be taken. In doing so, since considerable public money is at stake, it is important to determine whether the additional duties expected of the Deputy-Speaker are worthy of being granted via regulation rather than by the remuneration tribunal.
The DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. Patricia Forsythe): Order! Ms Lee Rhiannon would understand that her debating style of referring to a member in the first person and by name without reference to title makes it very difficult for her to sustain an argument that on occasions she is not making a personal attack on that member. The member has chosen not to use the convention adopted by others in this House of referring to other members in the third person and by their electorate or title. It would be much easier for everyone if Ms Lee Rhiannon were more conscious of that tradition and referred to other members in the third person.
Further, Ms Lee Rhiannon must confine her remarks to the subject matter of the motion and not make personal attacks on other members. If a member wishes to make a personal attack on another member, he or she should do so by way of substantive motion.
Ms LEE RHIANNON: Up to 1999 the member for Maitland was Chairman of Committees in the lower House. After the 1999 election he lost that job and was given the title of Deputy-Speaker. But let us be fair, it is more than a title¯he has to sit in the Speaker's chair for a few hours a day. For all that, he has retained at taxpayer's expense those entitlements he had when he was Chairman of Committees. When the Government created that separate position—that is, Deputy-Speaker—on top of Chair of Committees, more taxpayer dollars were needed. All up we are talking tens of thousands of dollars each year. Every year there is the extra $30,000 in salary and about $20,000 in allowances—that is the difference in earnings between an ordinary member and the Deputy-Speaker.
On top of that there is the cost of the extra 32 taxpayer subsidised trips to and from the member's electorate each year, said to be necessary because of his additional position as Deputy-Speaker. All overseas phone calls made by the Deputy-Speaker are paid for, so at least he can plan for his overseas trips. So why is the member for Maitland worth an additional $16,000? Is the Premier buying off this member? We still do not know, so we have to collect as much information as we can. The member for Maitland was looked after in 1999 when the Government clearly wanted to bring some new blood into the job of Chairman of Committees. The member of Maitland was kicked upstairs with not much to do, but with the great title of Deputy-Speaker. He retained his entitlements at that stage, but not that nice little perk called salary of office.
So the Greens strongly support this motion. The position of Deputy-Speaker does not warrant an additional $17,000 a year. But we are still not clear about why the Premier, Bob Carr, last week signed a government regulation that lifts the annual salary of the member for Maitland from around $137,000 to $153,000. Is this the sweetener the Premier had to deliver to him to save Labor at a State and Federal level from an embarrassing by-election? Let us remember that the member for Maitland represents a marginal seat that in part sits in the Federal marginal seat of Paterson.
As would be expected, a spokeswoman for Premier Bob Carr has defended the pay rise, saying it is fair and recognises the responsibilities the member has taken on in his role as Deputy-Speaker. But as no-one has told us what those responsibilities are—and the rumours are rife that the member of Maitland wants out—I ask whether the regulation in Government Gazette No. 51, dated 5 March 2004, at page 1014, is in fact a bribe to the member for Maitland to stay in office?
The Hon. Peter Primrose: Point of order: I refer to Standing Order 91 (3) which states:
A member may not use offensive words against either House of the Legislature, or any member of either House, and all imputations of improper motives and all personal reflections on either House, members or officers will be considered disorderly.
That is exactly what Ms lee Rhiannon is doing at this time.
The DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile): Order! I ask the member to refrain from making implications against the character of a member of the other place. The member can criticise the Government but should not make references to an individual member.
Ms LEE RHIANNON: I note that the Leader of the Opposition made comments about whether there would be a flow-over to Miss Amanda Fazio's position in this place. Again, we have not heard anything from the Government, and there is still time for other Government speakers to clarify that. The House deserves the Government being open with us on that matter.
The Hon. Dr PETER WONG [4.07 p.m.]: I support the principle of the motion and the sentiment expressed by honourable members, in particular by the mover of the motion. Furthermore, I agree that it is totally inappropriate to give a pay rise to any member without going through due process. However, I have sought an opinion from the Clerk of the Parliaments. I have been told in the past that there is independence between the Houses. I went to see the Clerk and am grateful to him for providing me with a reference from the Federal Government, which I would like to read.
The DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile): Order! The member should refrain from referring to statements made to him by the Clerk, which were made in confidence.
The Hon. Dr PETER WONG: I will withdraw that. I obtained an opinion, which I will read. It states:
INDEPENDENCE OF THE HOUSES
Each House functions as a distinct and independent unit within the framework of the Parliaments. The right inherent in each House to exclusive cognisance of matters arising within it has evolved through centuries of parliamentary history and is made clear in the provisions of the Constitution.
The complete autonomy of each House, within the constitutional and statutory framework existing at any given time, it is recognised in regard to:
• Its own procedures;
• questions of privilege and contempt; and
• control of finance, staffing, accommodation and services.
This principle of independence characterises the formal nature of inter-House communication. Communication between the Houses may be by message, by conference, or by committees conferring with each other. The two Houses may also agree to appoint a joint committee operating as a single body and composed of members of each House. The document also states:
As an expression of the principle of independence of the Houses, the Speaker took the view in 1970 that it would be parliamentary and constitutionally improper for a Senate estimates committee to seek to examine the financial needs or commitments of the House of Representatives. In similar manner the House of Representatives estimates committees, when they operated, did not examine the proposed appropriation for the needs of the Senate.
The Hon. PETER BREEN [4.11 p.m.]: I am pleased to support the Opposition's motion for disallowance of the Parliamentary Remuneration Amendment (Deputy-Speaker) Regulation. In particular, I support the Opposition's argument that the Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal should decide all salaries and entitlements and the rules for guiding members in the use of their entitlements. If the Government wants to give members a pay rise, or otherwise add to their entitlements, the appropriate procedure is that the Premier, as Minister responsible for the Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal, should give a suitable reference and ask the tribunal to make a special determination under section 12 of the Parliamentary Remuneration Act.
The last time that I recall the Premier seeking a special determination from the Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal was the reference he gave, I think in 2001, to secure funding for members of the Legislative Assembly wishing to send regular newsletters to their constituents. On that occasion the Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal approved an annual payment to lower House members of $5.6 million for printing and postage. It was a massive payment by comparison with the small pay rise currently being sought for the Deputy-Speaker. But the important point is that the process put in place by this Parliament should be followed. Few people now question the annual electorate mail-out, even though it is an obscene amount of money in my opinion for material that inevitably finds its way into the rubbish tin.
The annual electorate mail-out account proves that the Government can secure whatever benefits it needs to appropriately remunerate officeholders, provided it follows the rules, that is, the rules made by the Parliament, not the rules made under delegated authority. Without the involvement of the Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal there is a real danger that the Government will give itself a pay rise. The Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal plays an important function in determining the level of remuneration and entitlements for members of this place. To circumvent the tribunal, which the regulation seeks to do, in my opinion is to undermine an important referee body on the question of entitlements and remuneration.
Another example of the work of the tribunal being undermined that comes to my mind is the current reference of the tribunal to look at the question of the Sydney allowance. Members have been interviewed about that and the tribunal has undertaken wide research. It has investigated how other jurisdictions deal with the question of country members and their representation in city parliaments. While this process is going on, of course, the Independent Commission Against Corruption is undertaking its own inquiry as to the way it thinks that the Sydney allowance should work. That, to my mind, is a huge waste of public resources and another example of the work of the Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal being undermined. I support the motion for disallowance. I think it reflects a growing trend for the Government to give itself a pay rise on this occasion and to provide its own allowances without going through the process that has been put in place by the Parliament. On that basis I hope that the disallowance motion is successful.
Mr IAN COHEN [4.14 p.m.]: I have listened with interest to debate thus far. I support the comments made by Ms Lee Rhiannon and other speakers in support of this disallowance motion. I support also the comments of the Hon. Peter Breen. In recent years much controversy has surrounded the issue of pay increases and allowances for members—increases that have been passed in the Parliament or by various executive officers such as the Premier. As a result we have asked the Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal to set the standards—a body that is separated, to a degree, from political debate. That is an appropriate safeguard for politicians, who are often accused of having their snouts in the trough.
Accusations are made by the media—both fair and unfair—that degrade the standing of politicians in the eyes of the public. I support the sentiments that have been expressed about making the Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal the arbiter of such matters. This proposed pay increase for the Deputy-Speaker in the other place, which is unjustified, is an offence to taxpayers in New South Wales. The position of Deputy-Speaker is not a long-standing position. In fact, that position was created only in 1999. Was that position created because of the work overload of the Speaker in the other place? I am sure that the answer to that question is no. The Deputy-Speaker appears only briefly in the other House. Many Deputy-Presidents perform that sort of duty in this House.
When tellers count the numbers in divisions, people often jokingly ask them how much they will be paid for doing that. Those sorts of roles have to be performed by responsible members of the House but we should not put a wage quota on every role they play in the functioning of this Chamber. People who have a great deal of experience should perform those roles to enable the important functioning of this House. It is an insult to everyone that the Deputy-Speaker should receive a pay increase of $17,000 a year. As a result of national competition policy the Government is doing away with job security in a number of industries. However, it is now asking us to support an unnecessary and unjustified pay increase for the Deputy-Speaker in the other place. There is a degree of hypocrisy and rhetoric in that request, so it is appropriate for the Greens to support the disallowance motion that was moved earlier by the Opposition.
The Hon. Dr ARTHUR CHESTERFIELD-EVANS [4.17 p.m.]: I support the disallowance motion moved earlier by the Opposition. The Democrats have been consistent in their position in relation to this matter. On 27 June 2002 the Government moved a motion, at the suggestion of the Opposition, that the deputy leader of a party with more than nine members in this Chamber should receive an increase in salary. At that stage the number of Liberal Party members represented in this place dropped from 10 to nine after pesky crossbench members were elected as a result of the introduction of the tablecloth ballot paper. Members of the Liberal Party were keen to ensure that the then Deputy Leader of the Opposition, James Samios, did not lose his salary. The motion, which was referred to as the Samios motion—
The Hon. Ian Macdonald: And that was not rejected by the other House.
The Hon. Dr ARTHUR CHESTERFIELD-EVANS: No. The devil looks after his own. In that case Opposition members were in favour of the motion. In this case the Deputy-Speaker in the lower House is to receive a pay rise. No-one denies that John Price is a fine fellow. I gather that, after 20 years as a member of Parliament, he has reached his superannuation maximum. As he has not been appointed as a Minister or as the Speaker it appears as though his current position will be the highest that he will hold. Will the Deputy-Speaker retire? If he receives a small pay rise—and that will result in an increase to his superannuation—he is less likely to retire. That also means that there will be no necessity for a by-election. He might be persuaded to stay on in a marginal seat for the benefit of his electors. Being a good fellow he probably also has a personal following. The Government obviously does not want to hold a by-election at the moment, with Campbelltown health services receiving adverse publicity and the trains coming off the rails. As Mr Ian Cohen pointed out, a $17,000 sweetener will keep a sitting member in place. It is bad to display that sort of largesse.
The Australian Democrats believe in the Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal but we must remain vigilant. Electoral allowances for members of the lower House increased after submissions to that tribunal, while electoral allowances for upper House members remained static. Members in this place do our best to keep in touch with our constituents and an increased electoral allowance would have been quite useful in that regard. Perhaps that is not an urgent issue for upper House members from the major parties, who do not have specified electorates in the manner of members of the Legislative Assembly. However, for crossbench members the State is our electorate and we try to keep in touch with our constituents.
It is interesting to note that the Government appears not only to give sweeteners to those people whom it considers valuable but also to deal very skilfully with the Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal. The Australian Democrats support the Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal but we also support equity in the tribunal's decisions regarding different parties, Houses and circumstances. We do not see any particular reason to increase the Deputy-Speaker's allowance. At present, 20 per cent of the Deputy-Speaker's salary of office is added to his base salary.
He also receives an expense allowance of 14 per cent of his base salary. The regulation seeks to increase the 20 per cent loading to 30 per cent and to increase the expense allowance from 14 per cent to 20 per cent of salary. The Australian Democrats do not see any reason for this change. We believe the Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal should be supported and that it should give a fair go to members in both Houses and from all political parties. We oppose hypocrisy on the part of both the Government and the Opposition.
The Hon. JON JENKINS [4.22 p.m.]: I do not support the motion of the Leader of the Opposition. However, I reiterate the suggestion made by several honourable members and in the media that this extra entitlement is designed to prevent the resignation of a Government member and a subsequent by-election for his seat. That should cause the Government some concern and Government members should search their souls.
The Hon. Rick Colless: Condemn them.
The Hon. JON JENKINS: I am condemning them. I am advised that the pay rise or entitlement was reviewed by the Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal and that the regulation amends the necessary legislation. It has been suggested that there was no due process. There was due process, but the rules may need to be revised. One could argue that it is cheaper to add entitlements to the member's salary than to call a by-election. I do not know how much a by-election costs, but it might be cheaper to pay the extra entitlement.
The Hon. Ian Macdonald: It saves money.
The Hon. JON JENKINS: I acknowledge the interjection of the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries. It may not save the Minister's soul. The affairs of the other House, including salaries and conditions, should remain exactly that: the affairs of the other House. I ask the Government to consider the precedent that it is setting before the wheel turns full circle.
The Hon. MICHAEL GALLACHER (Leader of the Opposition) [4.25 p.m.], in reply: I thank honourable members for their contributions to the debate on this motion, particularly the bizarre contribution by the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries. He had a great opportunity to clear the air on this issue but he simply dipped his finger in and stirred. I wish that the Hon. Jon Jenkins had been quicker in acknowledging the Minister's interjections, which may have helped those members who are confused about how to vote on this issue to make up their minds. Several members expressed concern—
The Hon. Amanda Fazio: Just do what Johnny boy tells you.
The Hon. MICHAEL GALLACHER: The Hon. Amanda Fazio should not worry about it because she is not getting a pay rise. Cranky Mandy is not getting the pay rise but John Price might divvy it up with her fifty-fifty. There is no-one more bitter than a person who is not going to get the dough. The gravy train has not pulled up at Fazio central.
I want to comment on the contributions of several honourable members, particularly the Hon. Dr Peter Wong and The Hon. Jon Jenkins, who expressed the view that the affairs of the other House are not the affairs of this House. I remind each and every member that this is the House of review. We review the decisions and actions of the other place. At the end of the day when the rubber hits the road and it comes to community issues, which House do the people turn to? The people turn to us: They always come to us to fix the intentional or neglectful mistakes that the mob opposite makes day in, day out. Do not lose sight of this fact: The moment we relinquish that responsibility we will render this House absolutely useless when it comes to protecting the public and ensuring transparency of government decisions. Scrutiny of the Government's every decision is paramount in all that we do. I commend the motion to the House.
Question—That the motion be agreed to—put.
The House divided.
Mr Della Bosca
Reverend Dr Moyes
Question resolved in the negative.