Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 5 Hansard (5 May) . . Page.. 1327..
MR SPEAKER (Mr Cornwell) took the chair at 10.30 am and asked members to stand in silence and pray or reflect on their responsibilities to the people of the Australian Capital Territory.
MS TUCKER (10.31): I present the Remuneration Tribunal (Amendment) Bill 1999, together with its explanatory memorandum.
Title read by Clerk.
MS TUCKER: I move:
That this Bill be agreed to in principle.
Mr Speaker, yesterday in the Assembly the Chief Minister presented the latest ACT budget. The budget describes in great detail what the Government intends spending its money on. However, it is odd that there is one area of expenditure the Government does not want any control over, and that is its own salaries and those of other MLAs and office-holders. The Government leaves the setting of MLAs' and other office-holders' salaries to the Remuneration Tribunal. In the past, most MLAs have been quite happy to receive any increase in their remuneration that has been determined by the Remuneration Tribunal. The justification given is that the Remuneration Tribunal is an independent body that undertakes investigations into remuneration increases without any self-interest involved. This may be so, and I am quite happy for the Remuneration Tribunal to undertake such investigations. However, what concerns me is that there is no mechanism for MLAs to say no to a pay rise. We do have the option of putting submissions to the tribunal, but once the tribunal makes its determination then that is it. We receive a pay rise whether we like it or not.
There is no mechanism in the Remuneration Tribunal Act for the Assembly to question a determination of the tribunal. The standard mechanism for allowing such questioning across many other pieces of legislation is to make determinations disallowable instruments so that, if a member wishes to object to a determination, then the determination can be tested in the Assembly via a disallowance motion.
The provision of disallowable instruments is also about accountability, making sure that those people making decisions that affect the governance of the ACT are ultimately accountable to the Assembly. Mr Speaker, I therefore find it odd that the Remuneration Tribunal is not accountable for its decisions, even though these decisions affect the expenditure of public money. I note that in the latest review of MLAs' salaries by the tribunal, the Chief Minister said in her submission that the present circumstances do not