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Thursday, 24 March 2011
Page: 3161

Mr BANDT (11:17 AM) —I first saw the Remuneration and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2011 when it was introduced a little over a half an hour ago, and for the first time in the 43rd Parliament we have had a bill that has been introduced and debated on the same day, as far as I am aware. I am concerned that the process of introducing and debating a bill on the same day removes our capacity as members to consider the provisions of the bill in any meaningful way. I do accept and thank the minister for having kept us up to date with his intentions in this regard over previous weeks, but that is a different thing to actually being able to consider the bill and its implications.

When it comes to the matter of politicians’ remuneration, that is, in my view, an instance where there should be the maximum transparency and opportunity for debate and opportunity to consider the implications of what this parliament is going to decide—especially when the thrust of the bill is to remove from this place, from the parliament, the ability to have any meaningful oversight on politicians’ remuneration. So I have grave concerns about the process and I do hope it does not set any sort of precedent for future debates. I am concerned that, when a higher standard perhaps should be applying in an area where there has been and continues to be public cynicism about the motives of politicians, there should be more debate about it rather than less.

I understand there are a number of particular areas that the Belcher report has proposed that do cause concern. One, for example, is with respect to the electorate allowance. I and other members of the Greens use our electorate allowances in the electorate. It is used for a variety of very important community functions, and we are concerned at the prospect of a tribunal now deciding that that might be rolled into base pay, without a proper case being made for that and without this place and the Senate having had a full opportunity to decide whether or not that is in fact a valid and appropriate thing to do.

On the matter of principle about whether or not a tribunal should be able to do something separately from parliament and parliament not having the ability to disallow it, the Greens do not support removing the role of the parliament in relation to tribunal determinations. Transparency and accountability demand that the parliament maintain oversight of such matters. Given that the Belcher review has only just be made available and that we are being asked to vote on this matter now, we do not have the opportunity to properly consider the rationale for removing the role of parliament in this way. I understand that we are in a distinct minority, but at this moment we are not in a position, especially given such short notice, to support the bill at this stage. We will engage more fully on it when it comes to the Senate, but it is of grave concern that such an important matter is being put through so quickly.