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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 5 Hansard (5 May) . . Page.. 1328 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

warrant any adjustments to remuneration and allowances for members of the Legislative Assembly at this time. What is she going to do if the tribunal decides that MLAs will get a pay increase? Is she just going to say, "I do not really want this pay increase, but if you really want me to have it then I guess I will just have to accept it", or will she stick to her original conviction and say, "No, I do not think this increase is justified; I think the tribunal should have another look at this."? My point is that at present she or any other member does not even have the chance of questioning the tribunal's determination.

Of course, this Bill does not mean that MLAs will never get another pay rise. If a majority of members want to accept a Remuneration Tribunal determination, then a disallowance motion cannot stop this. However, I think that as MLAs we should be mindful of the economic circumstances of those people in the ACT who voted us into this privileged position, and we have to share the burden on the community of reducing the ACT's debt. Previous determinations of the tribunal seemed to be more concerned about the relativities between politicians' salaries across the different States rather than looking at the appropriateness of such salaries in the first place. The problem, though, is that at present there is no clear mechanism for the Assembly to send a message to the tribunal about what it regards as the critical factors to be taken into account in making determinations. By providing the opportunity for a disallowance motion, such issues can be debated directly in the Assembly rather than through the media as currently occurs whenever a new determination is made.

I should point out that this Bill does not allow the Assembly to overrule the tribunal and give itself a pay rise. The Bill expressly provides that a determination may not be amended through a disallowance motion to increase remuneration. The Assembly could only reject pay rises rather than decide on an increase.

Another aspect of this Bill is that it introduces restrictions on the range of persons who can be appointed to the tribunal. This is in response to the fact that, while the tribunal is supposed to be independent, there is nothing in the Act which specifies who can be on the tribunal. It is just up to the Chief Minister to make the appointments. I have therefore put in a requirement that a person cannot be appointed to the tribunal if they are employed by, or are providing services to, the ACT Government or if they previously held an office, including that of an MLA, in respect of which the tribunal determines remuneration. These changes should go some way towards promoting the independence of the tribunal members.

In conclusion, let me say that I am not sure why other members want no role in Remuneration Tribunal determinations when the Commonwealth Parliament has the power under its Remuneration Tribunal legislation to disallow determinations. This certainly has not stopped Federal MLAs from getting pay rises. When the ACT set up its own Remuneration Tribunal in 1995, the disallowance provision was specifically left out of the ACT legislation, but I think the Assembly abrogated its responsibility by not including this provision, and it is time to redress this situation. I commend this Bill to the Assembly.

Debate (on motion by Ms Carnell ) adjourned.

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Acknowledgement of Country

We acknowledge the Ngunnawal people as traditional custodians of the Canberra region. It is also an important meeting place for other Aboriginal peoples. We respect their continuing cultures and value the contribution they make to life in the ACT.