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Thursday, 24 March 2011
Page: 3162

Mr GRAY (Special Minister of State and Special Minister of State for the Public Service and Integrity) (11:21 AM) —in reply—I thank all of those who have contributed to the debate on the Remuneration and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2011. In particular, I thank the member for Melbourne for his observations. I would like to say that the philosophy that underpins this bill is that the beneficiaries of remuneration decisions should not be the determiners of those decisions, and therefore the government stands by its commitment in this bill to provide an independent process. I thank the member for his contribution and I make the assumption that further discussion and debate will occur on this matter in the other place.

This bill will restore the power of the Remuneration Tribunal to determine the base salary of parliamentarians. It will also allow the tribunal to determine the remuneration and other terms and conditions of departmental secretaries and the remuneration and recreation leave entitlements of other officers established under the Public Service Act 1999. In restoring the tribunal’s power to determine the base salary of parliamentarians the bill will implement the cornerstone recommendation in the report of the Committee for the Review of Parliamentary Entitlements. This will provide more transparency and, importantly, independence in the determination of parliamentary base salaries.

I have tabled a copy of the committee’s report for the information of members and the public. The report is an important contribution to the broader task of reform of the system of parliamentary remuneration and allowances. The bill also provides that, in addition to the restoration of the Remuneration Tribunal’s power to determine parliamentarians’ base salaries, that tribunal’s determination of parliamentary remuneration will in future not be disallowable. This will reinforce the independence of the tribunal and ensure the integrity of the scheme for determining the remuneration of parliamentarians by removing, to the greatest extent possible, opportunities for intervention in the implementation of the tribunal’s determinations by the beneficiaries of these determinations. To ensure openness and transparency of the Remuneration Tribunal’s decision making, the tribunal will be required to make its decisions public and publish reasons for them.

The bill also contains amendments to the Remuneration Tribunal Act 1973 and consequential amendments to the Public Service Act 1999 to make the Remuneration Tribunal responsible for determining the classification structure for departmental secretaries and related matters, which may include pay points and guidelines on the operation of the structure. These amendments implement the government’s 2007 election commitment in this regard. As is the case currently with determinations made by the Prime Minister, the Remuneration Tribunal’s determinations of the remuneration and other conditions of departmental secretaries would not be subject to disallowance.

The measures contained in this bill restore independence and transparency to the remuneration of parliamentarians, departmental secretaries and other office holders that I have mentioned. As I said earlier, the system that sees parliamentarians supported by an efficient, effective and transparent system of remuneration and entitlements will allow them to better do their jobs. The measures in this bill are an important step towards that goal. I commend the bill to the House.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.