Page 166 - Week 01 - Wednesday, 10 December 2008

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I am very pleased to present this bill today. Members would be aware that on Monday of last week the Clerk advised all members that legal advice had been received that members would not be acting legally if they sought to allocate their salary or part of their salary allocation to another member. I think it is a most disturbing development. Members have been pooling their salaries for many years—indeed, I believe it dates back probably to 1993 or 1994, as far as I can trace back—to enhance the effectiveness, particularly of those who do not have the resources of the bureaucracy to support them in their endeavours in this place.

Equally worrying to me is that the regular direction that is issued by the Chief Minister under section 10 of the LA(MS) Act to put in place the annual salary arrangements for members has used almost identical wording for many years. We now find that members in a number of Assemblies have been acting illegally and I think it is very discomforting. Indeed, this legal advice begs the question of why it was provided, who asked for it to be prepared and why the question was asked in the first place.

In part, my concerns relate to the limited information we now have about this matter. In the Clerk’s advice of 1 December he says that section 8 of the determination precludes the pooling of members’ salaries. I am not a lawyer but, as I read section 8 of the 18 June 2008 determination, where the wording appears to be the same as in previous determinations, I have difficulty in seeing how members cannot act in the way in which they have been doing for some time. Even if I am wrong—and I repeat that I am not a lawyer—we need to clarify this situation urgently.

My bill will resolve the issue. In effect, it is very simple. It will amend the LA(MS) Act in two substantive ways. Clause 3 will add a new paragraph 10(3)(a) and this will explicitly permit a member of the Assembly to transfer part or all of their annual salary allocation to another member. In essence, it will enable what we have all been calling for, for a very long time—pooling of resources. It will enable parties within the Assembly to use their very limited resources, I believe, in a far more effective manner.

Clause 4 will add a new paragraph 20(4)(a), and this will permit members to reallocate their salary allocation for the purpose of engaging consultants and contractors. Again, this provision will enable parties to use their limited resources more effectively.

I was most surprised and concerned when I learned of the legal advice relating to the pooling of members’ salaries. As I said, I was surprised that the legal advice had been sought and concerned that the legal advice considers the pooling was not lawfully effective. I would note that I have not seen the legal advice, so I cannot comment on it in any detail. However, as I said, I have concerns and I do not know why the question was asked and who sought the advice.

I do not want my concerns, however, to distract from the outcome that I am seeking on behalf of all members who wish to pool their resources. Ultimately, our objective is to enable members to be as effective as possible in performing their roles as elected members. I do understand that there are discussions between the government, the

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