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Minor party MPs want Members to vote against recommended pay rise; Liberal MP is investigated for misusing printing entitlements.

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Wednesday 20 June 2007

Minor party MPs want Members to vote against recommended pay rise; Ross Vasta is investigated for misusing printing entitlements


TONY EASTLEY: In the words of the Greens Senator Bob Brown, there's nothing that brings the major parties together faster than a pay rise. 


The Remuneration Tribunal has recommended a pay increase of nearly 7 per cent for federal politicians, a top up to their salaries, which follows a similar increase last year. 


While both the major parties say the pay decision wasn't theirs, some of the minor parties think politicians should vote against the wage increase. 


From Canberra, Gillian Bradford reports. 


GILLIAN BRADFORD: Politicians are used to the bad publicity when they get a pay rise. There was an outcry last year when the Remuneration Tribunal gave MPs an extra $7000, and there's a similar reaction now another significant boost is on the way. 


BOB BROWN: It'll make lots of people angry, it can't be justified, it should be buried. 


GILLIAN BRADFORD: The Greens leader, Bob Brown, is one of just a handful of politicians who don't want the pay rise. 


The New South Wales Independent MP Peter Andren is another. 


PETER ANDREN: You can well ask why there's been such an increase of almost 40 per cent since 1999 in MPs' salaries, and I believe there is absolutely no justification for it, especially given the fact it bears no resemblance to any other increases that the general workforce has received. 


GILLIAN BRADFORD: Sticking up for the pay increase is a difficult job for MPs. They know it looks bad, especially when you compare it to increases in average wages. 


The Opposition whip, Roger Price. 


ROGER PRICE: I think people of Australia would have every right to object strenuously if members of Parliament set their own salaries. We don't. It's the Remuneration Tribunal. 


GILLIAN BRADFORD: The Greens leader, Bob Brown, says nothing brings the major parties together faster than a pay rise. You will get bad PR over this. 


ROGER PRICE: Well, look, when you look at people who are battling to pay their mortgages, battling to pay petrol, sure. What members of Parliament earn seems a lot of money, but you do have to have a process, this is a fair process, independent, arms length and transparent. 


GILLIAN BRADFORD: Peter Andren will try, and probably fail, to get up a disallowance motion on the pay rise. In the Senate, the Greens' Bob Brown will try the same manoeuvre, but so far he can probably only count on the support of the Democrats. Its party leader is Lyn Allison. 


LYN ALLISON: This is an insult to working people. 


GILLIAN BRADFORD: How do you then not look hypocritical, though, taking the pay rise when it comes? 


LYN ALLISON: Well, I think that'll be up to individual parliamentarians what they do with that pay rise. This is new to me, so I haven't had a chance to think about it, but I think there'll be some of us who think that that should be passed on perhaps to a charity. 


GILLIAN BRADFORD: Along with the debate over politicians' pay, the Government will also be facing questions today over the entitlements of one its MPs.  


The Queensland Liberal Ross Vasta is one of three Brisbane MPs being investigated by federal police over the possible misuse of printing entitlements. Last night he admitted he'd made "an administration error" in his office and had repaid the Department of Finance nearly $24,000. 


He provided nothing more in the way of explanation, but a spokeswoman for the Special Minister of State Gary Nairn says Mr Vasta had ordered some printing which was outside the rules. 


Labor's Penny Wong says there are many more questions that must be answered. 


PENNY WONG: Clearly that is a significant amount of money in anybody's language, $24,000, and, as importantly, I think Australians are entitled to know how this amount was calculated - has Mr Vasta repaid all that was owed? And we also should know did Mr Vasta pay this whole amount personally, or has there been some contribution from the Liberal Party? 


TONY EASTLEY: Labor's Penny Wong, ending that report from Gillian Bradford.