QUESTION: Parliamentary Allowances

Today in Question Time, Mark asked the Treasurer in his capacity as Leader of the Government whether the Government had made a submission to the Remuneration Tribunal in relation to parliamentary allowances and if so, whether the submission would be available to Parliament. 


The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: Today is the final day for submissions to the Remuneration Tribunal's annual review of determinations for members of the parliament. I lodged my submission two weeks ago, calling for a reduction in certain entitlements, clarification of past rules and, most importantly, updating the rules for the future to provide greater transparency and avoid double dipping.

For example, all MPs were compensated $13,977 last year for the loss of a parliamentary administered travel allowance, yet many MPs claim additional public funding rather than use the travel money that has already been paid to them—that's double dipping.

Country members in the House of Assembly also get paid thousands more in additional electorate allowance—that's triple dipping.

My questions of the Treasurer are:

1. Has the Government made a submission to the Remuneration Tribunal?

2. If so, will the Minister make that submission available to the Parliament and to the public ahead of the Remuneration Tribunal hearing, which I have been notified will be held on Tuesday 4 August?

3. If the Government has not made a submission, or if the Minister does not intend to release the submission, why not?

The Hon. R.I. LUCAS (Treasurer): I have made a submission on behalf of government members. I am very happy to email a copy of the submission to the honourable member. It was provided to all members of the media yesterday, so it is public. Given it has been a few years since both the honourable member and I, when I had a different role, appeared before the Remuneration Tribunal, I am not sure whether they do, as a matter of course, make submissions public or not. I would have to refresh my memory as to whether they are going to reveal the submissions.

I'll show you mine if you show me yours. I may well engage in a bartering arrangement with the honourable member, but I am very happy to show him mine if he shows me his in relation to the submission. The submission I have made does not seek to undo all that was done in a complicated process under the former Labor government, with which we agreed. I don't shy away from the complicated process of removing travel allowances because of the criticism that had been made over many years about travel allowances and the gold pass—I am going on memory now; I am sure my colleagues will correct me if I get it wrong—the bus—

The Hon. S.G. Wade: Metrocard.

The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: —Metrocard or the equivalent, whatever it was called in those days; free public transport. In addition to that, I think contrary to some earlier comments I saw from the Hon. Mr Parnell—I thought he was only talking about double dipping; I hadn't realised it was triple and quadruple dipping—when he was being critical nevertheless of other Members of Parliament and the extent of their alleged dipping, I think he had perhaps forgotten that, as part of that trade-off, the former Labor government removed a number of ministerial expense allowances and an expense allowance that both the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council had at a much lower level.

I think the Premier's allowance was much more significant. The ministers were the next level down, and the leaders of the opposition were much, much lower down. I think the Hon. Mr Parnell was trying to lead whomever he was speaking to into believing that there had been no trade-off by cabinet ministers and they were just gaining out of all this. I think that would be an unfair characterisation of what the former Labor government did in relation to that particular aspect.

Nevertheless, there was a complicated process, which led to the development of the common allowance and all these other provisions. Committee payments for members, with the exception of presiding members, were removed as well. There were a range of benefits and allowances that were removed and, in lieu thereof, the common allowance was included. The submission I have made on behalf of government members does not seek to undo that in whole or in part. If that is the intention of the Hon. Mr Parnell, he will meet trenchant opposition from myself on behalf of government members in relation to his endeavours in that area.

My submission on behalf of government members refers, not unsurprisingly given recent publicity, to what I am advocating on behalf of government members, which are changed arrangements in what is known colloquially as the country members' accommodation allowance. I think it is technically referred to as the Members' Accommodation Allowance in the Remuneration Tribunal determinations. I will not delay the proceedings here in relation to the specific aspects of that. I am quite happy to share the intimate detail of all of that submission with the honourable member. However, I have spoken about that in press conferences yesterday and media interviews yesterday and today, so the detail of that is also public to the extent that it has been questioned by members of the media.

As well, either myself or another representative, on behalf of honourable members, have been invited to make oral submissions to the tribunal—indeed, as we did many years ago at an earlier hearing of the Remuneration Tribunal.