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Wednesday, 18 June 2008
Page: 5137


Mr BYRNE (Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister) (9:51 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

This bill will set the annual salary to be payable to the next Governor-General and remove references in the Governor-General Act 1974 to the superannuation surcharge which was discontinued in 2005.

On 13 April it was announced that Her Excellency Ms Quentin Bryce AC would be appointed as Australia’s next, and first female, Governor-General following the retirement of His Excellency Major General Michael Jeffery AC CVO MC (Rtd).  Ms Bryce will be sworn in on 5 September 2008.

Salary

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. Although the appointment is at the Queen’s pleasure, a five-year term is considered usual.

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. The government forecast the Chief Justice’s salary over the next five years using wages growth projections. I note that the Chief Justice’s salary is determined annually by the Remuneration Tribunal, a body that is independent of government.

In setting an appropriate salary regard was also given to the Commonwealth funded pension that the Governor-General Designate will be entitled to receive during her term in office. This is at the request of the Governor-General Designate and is in line with the precedent established by Sir William Deane in 1995, who asked that his salary as Governor-General be set to take account of the non-contributory pension he received under the Judges’ Pensions Act 1968 after retiring from the High Court. Major General Jeffery in 2003 took the decision to donate his military pensions to charity during his term of office as Governor-General.

The proposed salary of $394,000 per annum, combined with Ms Bryce’s existing pension, will maintain the traditional relativity between the Chief Justice and the Governor-General.

Superannuation

In amending the act to set a new salary, the government has taken the opportunity to remove references in the act to the superannuation surcharge. Section 4 of the Governor-General Act 1974 was amended in 1997 to implement the superannuation surcharge and amended again in 2001 to bring the application of the surcharge into line with community standards.

The superannuation surcharge was subsequently discontinued in 2005. The bill to give effect to the abolition of the surcharge, the Superannuation Laws Amendment (Abolition of Surcharge) Bill, amended a number of acts but not the Governor-General Act 1974.

While this bill amends the act to remove the superannuation surcharge for future Governors-General, it does not affect the continued application of the surcharge to those former Governors-General to whom the surcharge applied.

I commend the bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Randall) adjourned.