Motion: Parliamentary Salaries and Allowances Act - Disallowance of Pay Increase
Mrs Armitage (Launceston) - Mr President, while I accept the decision to award a 10.5 per cent pay increase has been made by the independent arbiter, on 24 June 2015 in this House I stated it was absolutely appropriate for the Industrial Commission to determine wages as it was imperative Tasmanian politicians are not those deciding what they are paid. I still believe this; rightly or wrongly, I feel that by not supporting the motion before us, I would be voting myself a pay increase of 10.5 per cent.
I am not comfortable with this as I do not believe I should have any involvement with setting my pay. Looking at the bigger picture, I am concerned that should this pay increase go through and members of parliament are given the 10.5 per cent determination or catch-up, that it would be difficult and unfair to ask public servants to be capped at 2 per cent. Unions have already indicated this would mean an end to the wage-capped policy.
The question that arises is whether the state can afford it. We have been told than even a 1 per cent pay increase over the current 2 per cent wages policy would cost the budget around $100 million over the forward Estimates.
It would have been good to have been briefed by the Premier and/or the Treasurer as to a plan B should this disallowance motion fail. I would hate to see future cuts to health and/or education budgets.
Admittedly members of parliament have taken a two-year wage freeze followed by a 2 per cent increase. This is in some ways of our making. We could have taken the 2 per cent each year but we chose to do what we thought was right at the time. I voted that way as well, as we should not be involved in setting our own wages. Obviously, if we had taken the 2 per cent per year as did other public servants, the proposed increase would not be as large as it is now. At the time I believed we needed to set an example and we did.
It has been said that members do not have to take the extra payment but in fact this will not help the bottom line. Once this determination goes through for members of parliament, it will be irrelevant who takes it as all other State Service employees would then be entitled to an Industrial Commission determination and not a wage cap. Others are going to say the Tasmanian Industrial Commission noted in their advice that this cannot be used as a wedge to fight for wage rises in other areas, but I ask why not? It will be. The public sector unions, having supported the commission's ruling, are warning that the Tasmanian Government must now accept all the TIC's decisions.
We did vote that this determination should go to an independent arbiter, but we also left in a clause that we could bring it back here if it was felt that the increase was not in line with community expectation. As I mentioned in my previous speech in 2015, this is a contradiction of the intent of the previous bill, which was to distance ourselves from this decision. Here I am now, having to either vote it down, or vote myself a pay increase.
I spend a lot of time walking in my electorate and many people have spoken to me of the proposed 10.5 per cent increase. I hasten to add not one person has agreed with it. Many people in our community are hurting and the 10.5 per cent increase for politicians is not seen well.
Often when there are across-the-board wage rises, everything else goes up. I have concern for those in the community who have not received a salary increase, as the cost of living would have risen in line with others wage increases. Our pensioners and independent retirees are a good example. How are they faring now? Not very well, I believe. Interest rates are at an all-time low and these people who worked hard all their lives not to be a burden are, in many instances, now struggling.
Therefore, I will support the Government's disallowance motion as I believe to do otherwise is to be involved in giving myself a pay rise.