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Tuesday, 24 June 2003
Page: 17318

Mr ABBOTT (Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service) (4:48 PM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Governor-General Amendment Bill 2003 is to set the annual salary to be payable to the next Governor-General. Section 3 of the Constitution precludes any change to the salary of a Governor-General during the term of office. Therefore, whenever a Governor-General is to be appointed, changes to the salary of the office must be made by way of amendment to the Governor-General Act 1974 prior to the appointment. The salary needs to be set at that time at a level that will be appropriate for the duration of the appointment.

The salary proposed in the bill is consistent with the convention applying since 1974 under which the salary of the Governor-General has been set with regard to the salary of the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia. As Dr Hollingworth was the first Governor-General to pay income tax on his salary, the relevant comparison before then was between the tax-free salary of the Governor-General and the estimated average after-tax salary of the chief justice for a notional term of appointment of a Governor-General of five years. As part of the convention, the practice had then been to set the Governor-General's tax-free salary at a level estimated to moderately exceed the projected average after-tax salary of the chief justice over the notional five-year term.

In proposing a salary for the next Governor-General, the government has maintained the link with the salary of the chief justice. As the Governor-General's salary is now subject to income tax, the salary can be referenced directly against, and—in line with the convention—set to moderately exceed, the estimated average salary of the chief justice over a notional three-year term of appointment.

Following its recent annual review, the independent Remuneration Tribunal has determined a four per cent increase for judicial officers, to take effect on 1 July 2003. As a result of this determination, the salary of the chief justice is expected to be $336,450 as of that date. It is therefore proposed to set the Governor-General's salary at $365,000, which also takes account of the fact that the chief justice's salary is reviewed annually by the Remuneration Tribunal while the Governor-General's salary will remain unchanged during the Governor-General's term of office. The Governor-General's salary over a notional three-year term of appointment will slightly exceed the estimated average annual salary payable to the chief justice over the same period.

The proposed salary is therefore commensurate with the office and maintains the traditional relativity between the chief justice and the Governor-General. I commend the bill to the House and present the explanatory memorandum.

Leave granted for debate to continue forthwith.