INDEPENDENT NEWS

Service Not Salary Should Drive Parliamentarians

Published: Fri 21 Dec 2001 10:07 AM
Age Concern Manawatu
Thursday, 20 December 2001
Service Not Salary Should Drive Our Parliamentarians
It Is Time To Remove The Setting Of MPs Pay From The Ivory Towers Of " The Higher Salaries Commission"
The truth of the matter is that Parliamentarians should be subject to the same medicine as those who elect them.
Members of Parliament should have their pay adjusted annually by the rate of increase in prices as set out in the cost price index produced yearly by the department of statistics.
This is the criteria applied to the incomes of the retired and beneficiaries.
It is always somewhat retrospective and leaves the recipients still struggling with day to day costs.
This would hardly be true of members of Parliament given their current salary and access to allowances.
Tuesday's Manawatu Standard detailed Hutton Peacock Chair of The Higher Salaries Commission response to public criticism of the comparative leap in MPs salaries.
According to Mr Peacock
"The Public Needed to better understand and appreciate the complexities of fixing MPs pay."
He contends that Allowances should not be considered part of the total pay packages of MPs as they cover out of pocket expenses. Mr Peacock is also strong on the need for relativity with the Private sector Salaries
What the public understands is that Nurses and School Teachers have to fight tooth and nail through industrial action to get catch up salary increases.
Many of the Allowances given to Members of Parliament are tax-free. The lack of transparency in the system has been questioned by The Auditor General. Recent high profile cases involving MPs allowances have demonstrated the flexibility of the system.
It is questionable in the current economic climate if MPs should even get a pay increase at this time given their ability to access these wide ranging. allowances.
The truth of the matter is that the system of allowances allows our MPs to be immune from the daily costs that most of us incur.
The Chair of the Higher Salaries Commission talks of the need for "relativity with remuneration in other areas" and the necessity of attracting "competent people" to stand for parliament.
Relativity is a word that bedevilled the union movement and the country for decades and led to the leapfrogging of wages.
The glaring difference between Private sector salaries and those of Parliamentarians is the conscious choice of service to New Zealand.
MPs freely enter the arena of politics at the going rate, and for whatever reason, agree to serve us all.
There is no need for complexity in setting MPs pay. The criteria should be the same as for us all. The ability to pay, the state of the economy and the expectations of belt tightening parliamentarians have of their electors.
Above all the place to debate whether or not a pay rise is justified is on the floor of the house not in the esoteric atmosphere of the Higher Salaries Commission.
Age Concern Manawatu strongly advocates that the responsibility for setting MPs pay should be removed from the Higher Salaries commission and return to "The Floor of the House"
Service not Salary should drive our Parliamentarians.
Don Robertson
President Manawatu Age Concern 3586928.

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