Monday, July 8, 2013

Newmania: The 41%ers

On Friday October 7, 2011, Anna Bligh, Premier of Queensland, issued a media release to announce that Queensland MPs would receive a 2.5% pay rise, in line with the Queensland Government Wages policy. The base salary of a parliamentarian rose to $137,149 per annum. A few other random increases were also made, but these were small (less than 5%, and in some cases, the result of increased responsibility.) The Bligh Government, just months out from the election which ultimately devastated the Labor Party in Queensland, was unpopular. The 2011 pay rise prompted the usual questions about whether our politicians deserved this pay rise.

The magnitude of the raise in 2011 was around the same as a lot of people receive each year; it’s a “cost of living” increase, although these regular adjustments disappeared for all but the lucky few during the worst of the Global Financial Crisis.

Queensland is, as usual, a law unto itself. Just ask any one of our LNP state members and they’ll be only too happy to tell you that Queensland is broke, and can’t afford any of the “luxuries” we used to take for granted, like services for our disabled, older workers, LGBTI community, tenants, abused women and writers. Our besieged MPs are being forced to break election promises to reduce the cost of living because they can’t afford to fund them. There is to be no discretionary spending; the surplus is the only thing that matters.

Do not despair, Queenslanders. Not everything is out of reach.

In what Acting Premier Jeff Seeney is describing as “revenue neutral”, Queensland politicians will see their base salaries leap by 41.8%, from $137,149 to $194,481, making them the highest paid state politicians in Australia, a country which already pays its politicians more than almost any other country, excluding Japan and Italy. Premier Newman is on annual leave, conveniently avoiding the fallout from this appalling decision.

In fact, this salary increase puts Queensland politicians over the top in terms of their base salary. They now earn more than the median salary of professors, and business executives, twice as much as the median salary of corporate lawyers, project managers and family doctors, and almost five times more than the median wage for aged care workers, hairdressers and customer service representatives.

I’m pleased for the people of Queensland that the Acting Premier has declared this monster of a pay rise to be revenue neutral, and that he can cut electorate allowances and the like to fund this pay rise, but I’m not satisfied. If electoral allowances and party funding can be cut now to fund a pay rise of mammoth proportions, why can't they be cut to fund other, more justifiable programmes?

Last year, I was awarded a pay rise. My role had expanded, I’d gained experience and seniority, produced results and I’d studied to learn more and have my skills recognised. Before my pay rise could become a reality, my line manager and I had to assess my work and develop a new position description, which was then graded by our senior Human Resources Manager (using the Hay Grade Job Evaluation methodology). The HR Manager made a recommendation to my senior manager, based on the Hay Grade results, and the pay rise had to be signed off by a member of the executive group. In other words, my claim for a pay rise was investigated, evaluated and approved.

Where are the investigations and the evaluations that would justify this 41.8% pay increase for Queensland MPs?

Queensland MPs are of the opinion that they don’t need to justify this gift, because legally, their salaries are tied to the salaries of Federal MPs, and that the Queensland Government would be in breach of the law if it did not apply the proscribed increases.

In reality, this pay increase needs more justification than anything else the Newman Government has done. The voters are unhappy – today’s Newpoll results show that Labor is improving in the 2 Party Preferred calculations and King Campbell’s popularity is falling. Luckily for the LNP, Queensland Labor has neither the numbers nor the leader take advantage of the trend.

Nine News will report tonight that the first year alone of this pay increase is worth $6 million dollars. At an average salary of $82,000, (plus 40% built up costs) that’s over 50 full time jobs that could be funded. It’s money that could be directed to support the minority groups whose assistance has been cut. It’s hospital beds that could be reopened or a slightly less humiliating pay rise for our emergency workers.

Labor’s newest Queensland MP, Jackie Trad, has refused to accept the pay rise, requesting the Clerk of the Parliament not to process the increase.

"If this request cannot be met than I will ensure any wage increase beyond reinstatement of the electorate allowance be quarantined in a fund to support community projects in South Brisbane, particularly those that have lost funding under the Newman LNP Government."
How does your local MP feel about a 41% pay rise after slashing over 14,000 jobs and numerous services, while simultaneously fighting our critical state employees over interim 2-3% increases?

Contact your local MP via email and ask for justification: the address will be, or click here for the list of contact details for every Queensland Member of Parliament. Don’t forget to copy in the Premier.

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