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Monday, 23 June 2008
Page: 5617

Mr DUTTON (5:57 PM) —I rise to speak on the Governor-General Amendment (Salary and Superannuation) Bill 2008. In doing so, I start by congratulating the Governor-General designate, Ms Quentin Bryce, on her appointment. I certainly wish her all the best in a challenging but incredibly important role. I note that this bill is non-controversial and that it has the support of this side of the House. The bill follows the conventions of previous governments to set the salary of the Governor-General just above that of the Chief Justice of the High Court and raises the salary of the next Governor-General from $365,000 to $394,000. The current salary of the Chief Justice of the High Court is $415,690, and the Governor-General’s salary has been reduced to take account of Ms Bryce’s entitlement to a Commonwealth funded pension from prior employment, as the act requires. Section 3 of the Constitution provides that the salary of a Governor-General shall not be altered during their continuance in office. As such, increases are usually made before their appointment. The bill also removes references in the Governor-General Act 1974 to the superannuation surcharge, which was discontinued in 2005.

Debates of this kind are always difficult when families who are struggling to pay bills and senior Australians who are struggling to make ends meet are hearing about salaries of the order I have just spoken of. But the reality is that this is an office of the highest standing in our nation and one which deliberately attracts people of high quality who have the capacity to guide the nation in an appropriate direction. Ms Bryce certainly is one of those people who, were she in the private sector—at the bar, for argument’s sake, or in some other profession—would in all likelihood be demanding a salary much in excess of $394,000. It is a significant sum of money and it goes, as I say, with the weight of the office. This also raises the issue of the pay for the Prime Minister of this country. I hope at some stage in the future we are able to have a mature debate in this country about the level of pay for the Prime Minister. At the moment I think it is at an inappropriately low level for a person who is charged with the direction of this nation of 20 million people and a $1.1 trillion economy. The fact that we are not able to have a mature debate about what level of pay the Prime Minister should receive is something that I hope we are able soon to put in the past. As I said, many people are struggling to get by on just a fraction of that pay, but we need to recognise the reality, whether people like it or not, that people in the private sector would be earning many times that amount. Although the Prime Minister is obviously a man of significant wealth, as others before him have been while others have not, I think this is an office that deserves a higher level of pay. That may not be a populist line to run in the general community but I think it is an honest one and I hope that as a mature nation we are able to facilitate a debate about it in the time ahead. The bill now before the House, in relation to the Governor-General’s salary and superannuation, is supported by us on this side of the House and I commend it to the House.