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Thursday, 24 March 2011
Page: 3159


Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP (11:07 AM) —I thank the minister for outlining the history of the tribunal in such a detailed fashion and the history of the attempts over the years to make the process of determining the salaries of members and senators of the parliament more transparent. He has outlined where such attempts have failed in previous years and has brought forward this bill which will give true independence to the tribunal.

I think many people would remember the headlines which often appear in the papers after a determination that members of parliament vote upon their own payment. I think the idea that we have a tribunal that is free of political process to make these determinations is a fair way to go, and an improvement on the current system. It is quite interesting for people to realise that members and senators are not employees in the sense that people normally understand that term. For instance, there are no holidays for members and senators. There is no long service leave, no workers compensation and no penalty rates. There is none of the entitlements that employees in the ordinary sense think of as being part of their remuneration. So the way the tribunal will go about its business will be to take all those things into consideration when it makes its determinations, and do that in a way that does not have any political connotations.

I think it is also important to note that this bill is restoring the situation where the determination of the tribunal will no longer be subject to tabling and disallowance. It is also interesting to note that a new system will be invoked under the Public Service Act for the determination of the classification of departmental secretaries and that special provisions will be made for the tribunal to deal with the Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Secretary of the Treasury.

I think there is always an important nexus between the remuneration of members and senators and the remuneration of the Public Service. I have recollections of situations where you could end up as a minister, and the secretary of your department was being paid an enormous amount more than you—yet your head was on the line every day. Be that as it may, I think it is appropriate that the tribunal has responsibility in that way. Again, that will not be subject to a disallowance motion.

The opposition is in support of the bill. I think it is a framework that has been outlined very thoroughly and in good detail by the minister. There is no need for me to go through the facts as he has put them on the record. I simply say that I think he has done that well. We will, indeed, be supporting the legislation.

We are going to see the Belcher report. There has been much speculation and anticipation about what might be in there, how it might impact and the like. It will now become a public document and it will be considered, over a period of time, to determine what recommendations may be the right ones to enhance, in the words of the minister, the job that members and senators do for their constituents.

In this place we very often use words as people used to use swords or other fighting implements; we represent opposing points of views on so many things. It is necessary for us to stand up for those beliefs but it is also a most important part of our task that we look after the constituencies that we are elected to represent under our representative form of government. There is a degree and variety of work that members and senators have to deal with. Members, in particular, can run the full gamut of every issue that is relevant to anyone in their constituency. The issues can run from social welfare and taxation matters through to immigration matters. There can be complex issues dealing with legislation and there can be negotiations to take part in. The tribunal views all those aspects and says, ‘Here is an efficient system which will enable you to be the servants of the people,’ in the way that we believe that all of us should. I say that about each member and senator in this parliament. I know that all members in this House carry a heavy constituency load and have the interests of their constituents at heart. I see that this bill is adding to our ability to give that service as it should be given. In concluding my remarks I simply say that we will be supporting the bill.