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People of calibre

In an attempt to show that politicians were sharing the pain of the 2014 Budget, Tony Abbott announced a freeze on politicians’ pay rises. Needless to say, that didn’t last long.

Federal politicians, judges and top bureaucrats received a 2 per cent pay rise from January 1 this year.

Malcolm Turnbull will pocket over $10,000 extra with an annual salary of $517,504 and the base salary of a parliamentary backbencher will rise to $199,040 a year. The incoming head of Turnbull’s department, Martin Parkinson, will earn about $603,000, though his total remuneration package, including superannuation and other benefits, will reach $861,700.

The president of the remuneration tribunal’s three-member panel, John Conde, said an increase higher than 2 per cent could be justified “when set against a background of no general increase having been determined by the tribunal since July 1, 2013” but that “the tribunal has moderated its assessment” due to the state of the economy.

What he neglects to mention is that when politicians received that 2.4 per cent pay rise in July 2013, it was their third rise in 16 months delivering a salary boost of $54,220 or more than $1000 a week since March 2012. The last increase in MP’s pay was in return for losing perks such as global study trips and the closing down of the Gold Pass for retired members.

Monash University Political scientist Dr Nick Economou said; “Not many politicians do it for the money and if there wasn’t decent money on offer then only the wealthy would get involved in politics and that would be bad for democracy.”

The tribunal also warned it was important that the pay for parliamentarians and senior government officials “is maintained at appropriate levels over the longer term to attract and retain people of the calibre required for these important high-level offices”.

I agree that senior public servants should be well paid but, as Tony Abbott’s petulant fit of ideology in sacking four departments heads on his first day and his policy of replacing Labor appointments as their tenure expired shows, talent and experience are no guarantee of retention in the face of a Prime Minister intent on revenge.

And as for our politicians being “people of calibre”, many of them would be unemployable outside parliament. If they represent the best brains we can offer then we are in deep shit.


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  1. Sen Nearly Ile

    any fool realises that the unions could put themselves out of business by making wage increases to fit the gillard’s ‘independent’ tribunal.(not only a sharp greedy ploy but worse, in that she abrogated the need to vote. a sad clay-foot to a great PM)

  2. John Kelly

    Dr Nick Economou said “Not many politicians do it for the money and if there wasn’t decent money on offer then only the wealthy would get involved in politics and that would be bad for democracy.”
    What rubbish. People don’t have to be paid well to serve their country. Ask any defence serviceman or woman who are worth a dozen of these slackers.
    As for good people not applying unless the money is competitive, also rubbish. I would happily take on the job for half a backbencher’ salary, and do a better job.

  3. bossa

    “In an attempt to show that politicians were sharing the pain of the 2014 Budget, Tony Abbott announced a freeze on politicians’ pay rises. Needless to say, that didn’t last long.”

    IIRC the politicians got their pay rise just before Abbott made that decree anyway.

    How do these liars keep getting away with their scam?

  4. Roscoe

    I don’t think any of them would get employment outside if it wasn’t for their connections in government

  5. diannaart

    People of calibre deserve high remuneration.

    What does that say about people who volunteer to fight fires, attend animal shelters, raise money for charities, aid school teachers, care for aged or disabled, pick up garbage from beaches or after street celebrations, check on their neighbours…. too many to name, wherever there are people there are others who help without compensation or acknowledgement.

    They actually do help to make a better world. Without them, we would be wretched indeed.

  6. veronica sinclair

    It is amazing isn’t it that parliamentarians subscribe to the old concept of a review by a Tribunal as to the need to increase their salaries because the costs of living have gone up. The rest of us are subject to EBA.s. All of my colleagues in community health haven’t had a pay rise for 4 years. And this bunch of entitled mediocrities want to slash penalty rates for the worst paid.. I remember well one of the first acts of the LNP government was to stop pay rises for workers in aged care and child care. Go Figure.

  7. Caroline

    Entitled and mediocre. Both apt descriptions. When you look at some of their backgrounds there aren’t any.

  8. Kaye Lee

    “Unfortunately while this career path, as Tony Fitzgerald states, does include principled well-motivated people … it also attracts professional politicians with little or no general life experience and unscrupulous opportunists, unburdened by ethics, who obsessively pursue power, money or both.

    Political parties as they have developed over the last century seem like two mafia families seeking control of the public purse for distribution to themselves, supporters, the special interests who fund them and for buying votes at the next election. Political parties are not mentioned in the Constitution. They are effectively unregulated private organisations but they now control government treasuries.

    By centralising power as Tony Fitzgerald puts it: The public interest is subordinated to the pursuit of power, party objectives and personal ambitions, sometimes including the corrupt acquisition of financial benefit. Branch stacking has become endemic and as Fitzgerald says “The parties gift electorates to family connections, malleable party hacks and mediocre apparatchiks”.

    Since the 1990s there have been endless calls by federal and state government for increased efficiency, no wage increases unless matched with productivity, for restructuring, downsizing and deregulation all in the name of increased competitiveness and facing the international community in the 21st century. Many thousands of jobs have disappeared particularly those in federal and state bureaucracies at middle and lower incomes and in the general workforce.

    Now there is little doubt some restructuring of the country is necessary but it is strange that the political-administrative structure and the legal system are somehow excluded from any need for reform given both the massive costs and level of public dissatisfaction. It is surprising that while the media regularly exposes major and minor political misdemeanours, it rarely proposes any serious need for reform let alone suggests possible solutions. Our many publicly funded schools of Government and Politics also seem to be largely silent on the need for political or constitutional reform with some individual honourable exceptions.”

    – Ted Mack, Henry Parkes Oration 2013

  9. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Nick Economou’s assessment of pollies not doing it for the money, speaks volumes about what people in position of power think what fair remuneration for performance is.

    Sorry for sounding like a warped record (NOT), but if a teacher could earn what a first year pollie-got-a-cracker got, then that teacher would throw a permanent party for being properly recognised by being rewarded for their enormous efforts for their endeavours to teach the following generations.

  10. RosemaryJ36

    Tony Windsor and Ted Mack are two men of integrity whose parliamentary salaries I would gladly raise – if only they were both still there!

  11. diannaart

    Indeed Jennifer, to paraphrase Oscar; such people believe they can put a price on everything while understanding the value of nothing.

  12. economicreform

    ” And as for our politicians being “people of calibre”, many of them would be unemployable outside parliament. If they represent the best brains we can offer then we are in deep shit. ”

    And – surprise, surprise – we are!

  13. Mick quinlivan

    Dr Economou is right only the wealthy ie mainly anti- labor politicians would go into parliament. political parties are not bad in themselves
    but the trouble is too few join them. There is of course minor corruption in their organizations. Maybe eventually the courts will set
    guide lines for procedural fairness in internal matters. I would argue that economic rationalism in destroying the post war consensus
    and the emphasis on productivity bargaining for pay rises are also bad steps

  14. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Ok Mick quinlivan,

    I will look at that angle. I don’t count LNP at all coz they represent established monied interests and are likely to have secure financial circumstances themselves. That makes them unrepresentative to the vast majority of ordinary Aussies in my eyes.

    It however, doesn’t say much for many of the Labor representatives. I suppose if to identify the duds amongst them, it would be necessary to evaluate when they entered and under what remuneration regulations they managed. I suspect several of the so-called squeaky clean types who pretend opposition to the LNP Degenerates, are themselves guilty of the same standards.

    Expunge the lot of the the pretenders.

  15. Garth

    °Monash University Political scientist Dr Nick Economou said “Not many politicians do it for the money and if there wasn’t decent money on offer then only the wealthy would get involved in politics and that would be bad for democracy.”

    Am I the only one who thinks this statement doesn’t make any bloody sense?! Either they are doing it for the money or they’re not. If they aren’t doing it for the money (as the first part of Dr Economou states) then why would they NOT do it unless there was a decent wage on offer?? Confusing.

    Besides which, they get paid an incredible salary and benefits package for a job with no experience necessary, no skill required and no typical workplace rules applicable. It just turns my stomach!

  16. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Well Garth and Mick,

    political representation really means standing for truth and decency regardless of financial gain.

  17. Garth

    Agreed Jennifer

  18. Matters Not

    Remuneration, defined in terms of who gets what and why, shouldn’t focus (only) on those in the public sector because their returns are, on average, somewhat miniscule when compared to those at the ‘top’ in the private sector.

    People who are really, really rich and powerful, generally speaking, don’t go into ‘politics’. Sure they become ‘political players’ (beneath the public radar) because their wealth and how they acquired same and how they will acquire more is based on an existing ‘common sense’ that includes ‘legal arrangements’, current (and future) legislation and the like.

    Picking on politicians, having the average punter ‘distrusting’ same and by implication distrusting and despising ‘government’, broadly defined, is exactly what the really rich and powerful want.

    It’s ‘government’, (collective action) that the really rich and powerful despise, because it’s only ‘government’ that can (potentially) move against them. And needless to say they are winning because the average punter can’t see that.

    Can’t understand the bigger picture.

    Democratically elected Government is the only (potentially) effective power the average person has. But for many, ‘government’ is seen as the enemy.

  19. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    ALL the more reason Matters Not,

    to choose and accept political candidates who are there to do Public Service, as strange as that might sound!!!

    If they are there for public service, then they are less likely to be at the bidding of bully elites who have either never had to work hard or who have forgotten what it’s like due to periodical advantages.

  20. Matthew Oborne

    Financially insulating politicians from the legislation they create is madness and that is what we have done. It has made issues like cost of living with groceries and bills and petrol issues they dont feel the direct impact of.

    Banks taking time to pass on cuts but immediately passing on increases would a politician on the average australian wage feel so inclined to be at the mercy of the market?

    Insulating politicians from their decisions is not democratic.

  21. Geoff Andrews

    John Kelly’s observation was correct when he commented on Dr Nick Economou’s observation that:

    “Not many politicians do it for the money and if there wasn’t decent money on offer then only the wealthy would get involved in politics and that would be bad for democracy.”

    I’m on an aged pension and very thankful for that.
    (Thank you, thank you, hard working younger generation, I know I don’t deserve it .. never out of work for over 45 years but that big superannuation just kept eluding me).

    But elect me as an Independent in the House of Reps or, better still, a Senator and I’ll forego the aforesaid handout but keep the good times rollin’ just with my parliamentary expenses!

    We might get monkeys if we offer peanuts but if we offer pearls there’s bound to be more than swine milling around the trough.

  22. Bronte ALLAN

    Our country is already in dire straits financially–to only get much worse when all the automotive industries close down–& now ALL our so-called politicians will be paid even more than they used to be! This is not just obscene, it verges on being criminal! Especially with all the persons out of work or having to work as a casual, & the ever increasing number Pensioners & persons on Welfare etc! The biggest “downer” to all the pay rises, is that our PM gets much more in salary than Obama does, & the rest of our mob also get much more than the “others'” in the US Congress! WTF?? As for “paying peanuts & you get monkeys” that hackneyed “observation” is so wrong it is not funny! In the last 20 years or so we have had “monkeys” trying to run our country & look where we are now? I am certain that there are enough “decent”, not money grabbing people, who are committed to running our country the way it should be, & who would gladly do this for far less money that ALL of the inept lying lot we have now!

  23. John Lord

    The current bunch are the most highly educated, highly paid politicians we have ever had. Their goverence the worst.

  24. Matthew Oborne

    When someone “makes it” is it ego that they want to claim the structure of our society played no role? Ignorance perhaps, lesser intelligence not to understand that taking the conditions away that helped them will mean others wont make it as easily?

    Or is it greed, Greedy policies, Greedy ideologies.
    Should Pyne acknowledge he didnt pay his dues when he argues others should?
    He wont because like most Liberals they apparently go where they were in spite of society holding them back with such things as free public services they could access and only have to pay for when they became income earners, but they needed tax breaks because they paid more tax than most, that is awful a free tertiary education and we made them pay higher tax because they earned more.
    Shouldnt we just be in awe of them as they feel we should?

  25. Monday

    For years we have had to put up slogans like If you pay peanuts you get monkeys or that politicians don’t get paid enough. I have always felt that they should paid the average wage. Though the pay off for them should be that we hold them in high regard like a Buddhist monk. And maybe give them a free public transport pass for life if they prove worthy.

  26. David

    We should never forget how these poor underpaid, out of pocket, snouts in the trough, poverty stricken bludgers are handsomely rewarded by us in tens of millions of dollars, over and above their salaries and ‘official’ attached expenses
    Sickening truth….

  27. Truth Seeker

    Yes Kaye, deep shit indeed!

  28. win jeavons

    If you can’t attract people of ideals for a LOT less than 500k, never mind 800k then you must be doing something VERY wrong! We don’t want greedy lawyers or bankers , we need men and women of vision and willing to SERVE the people not batten off them. No wonder unionists want a bigger share of the crumbs they are dropped .Nick Economou, talk to real workers, mothers, teachers, CFA volunteers. Find out how the real world actually runs , or shut up.

  29. win jeavons

    If you want gold diggers, pay gold. This is more true than the peanuts garbage , said by a man, surely, no-one paid mothers over the millennia or there would be a shortage of humans.

  30. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Well said Bronte Allan @12.06pm,

    give the willing, Sane ones amongst us commenters the opportunity of representing the people and I reckon we’d do better than the apes who count for 75% of the parliament we have now (and I was trying to be generous!)

    Ditto Win Jeavons

  31. Pingback: People of calibre – » The Australian Independent Media Network | olddogthoughts

  32. townsvilleblog

    Two and a half million Australians are living below the poverty line, including myself.


    I think …..if you were on Centre Link benefits and got over paid they would make you pay it back!
    Our pollies who have “jewell” country citizenships – should be made to pay back their entitlements, wages and if they do get re-elected their time starts from that date of re-election.

  34. Sonia Finlayson

    The time has arrived when the people’s voice should be listened to. We vote these people in and they supposedly are our voice. My husband and I have worked all our lives and have saved so that we would not be a burden to society and now that we are retired we are more than ever in the hands of the grabbing politicians. The money that we saved to see us to the end of our lives is constantly being assessed.
    It seems so wrong that the people who were put in power to enable society to live a simple productive life are taking so much that quite honestly they do not deserve. This needs to end.

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