Northern Territory Second Reading Speeches

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Madam Speaker, I move that the Bill be now read a second time.

Section 3 of the current Assembly Members and Statutory Officers (Remuneration and Other Entitlements) Act 2006, provides that the basic salary of a member of the Legislative Assembly is to be the same as that for a member of the federal House of Representatives, less $3000.

The base pay of federal Members of Parliament is determined by the government of the day after receiving advice from the Commonwealth Remuneration Tribunal. For some years, however, the arrangement has been that parliamentary base pay has been linked to the Principal Executive Office holder pay level within the Commonwealth public service.

In September this year the Remuneration Tribunal determined that the pay rate for principal executive office holders should be increased by 3% with effect from 1 October 2009. Consequently the base pay for members of the House of Representatives would also be increased by that amount from 1 October, as would the basic salary of members of the Territory’s Legislative Assembly if the current legislative provisions remain as they now stand.

Given the overall economic circumstances and the Northern Territory’s budgetary situation, the Government considered whether (a) such an increase was justified, and (b) whether it was appropriate to continue to link the pay of members of the Legislative Assembly to pay movements of Federal parliamentarians.

An essential component in considering these issues, were the principles set out in the Government’s recently announced “Northern Territory Public Sector Wages Policy 2009-2012”. The Public Sector Wages policy covers wage negotiations for the next 4 years. It sets out the Government’s bargaining principles which include keeping costs within defined parameters and delivering increased efficiency, effectiveness and service outcomes across agencies. In particular it provides that bargaining outcomes will provide for salary increases of up to 2.5% per annum over the life of an Agreement.

It would be difficult, Madam Speaker, for the Government to enter into wage negotiations with the public sector on the basis of these principles, if we ourselves were not prepared to exercise similar restraint.

Accordingly it has been determined that from 1 October the nexus with the Federal sphere should be repealed and that base salary for MLA’s from that date will be increased as per the terms of the Government’s public sector wages policy, namely 2.5%.

Having determined that, this Government wishes to clearly state that this outcome should not be taken in any way as an adverse reflection on the contribution and efforts of Honourable Members. The dedication and sacrifices that members make in the course of their duties needs to be acknowledged and recognised. Their service to the public and contribution to society should not be diminished or devalued in any way.

In this regard I note the following passage in the report by the Commonwealth Remuneration Tribunal in December 1999 when dealing with salaries and allowances for Senators and Members of Parliament:-
In an effort to strike the right balance between an ‘appropriate’ level of remuneration, while at the same time leading the way in showing restraint in these difficult economic times, the proposed Bill removes the nexus between the pay of MLA’s and members of the House of Representatives and provides instead:-

For an increase in the base salary of MLA’s of 2.5% effective from 1October 2009. This increase co-insides with the Government’s position as set out in the Northern Territory Public Sector Wages Policy 2009-2012. It replaces the 3% increase that would have taken place from 1 October had the current legislation remained in place.

From the date of the next salary movement for general Northern Territory administrative and professional public sector employees, which will be in accordance with the terms of an agreement scheduled for completion in August 2010, the base salary of MLA’s will be recalculated. The new rate of pay from the date specified in the agreement will be the base salary payable prior to 1 October 2009, adjusted by the percentage increase payable to the general Territory public sector. However, any such adjustment will be limited so that it would not exceed the amount payable at that time to a Member of the House of Representatives, less $3000

From that date forward the base salary of members of the Legislative Assembly will be linked to general wage movements of the Territory public sector, except that any future increase will be limited so that at the time of calculation they do not exceed the amount payable to a Member of the House of Representatives, less $3000.

It is the firm view of the Government that this new approach is responsible and restrained. We suggest it is more relevant to link wage movements of members of this house with those of the Territory public sector, rather than to Federal politicians.

I commend the Bill to Honourable Members and table the accompanying Explanatory Statement.


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