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Parliament debates Members' pay and conditions; photographers in House of Representatives suspended for seven days for photographing a man jumping from the gallery onto the floor.

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Monday 16 February 2004

Parliament debates Members' pay and conditions; photographers in House of Representatives suspended for seven days for photographing a man jumping f rom the gallery onto the floor


MARK COLVIN: Despite what many politicians from the major parties might wish, the controversy over politicians' pay and conditions won't go away. The Democrats are not only pushing to have current MPs included in the super c hanges, they also say there could be a case for increased pay for the Prime Minister and the Treasurer.  


But the majority of members of the Coalition just want to move the debate on. They feel the longer it continues the more damage it will cause, and despite Mark Latham's win last week, Labor doesn't want too much emphasis on it either, with their MPs emphasising that it's up to the Remuneration Tribunal, not up to politicians, to determine their pay. 


From Canberra, Chief Political Correspondent Catherine McGrath reports. 


CATHERINE MCGRATH: For those looking for signs today of the discomfort this debate is causing politicians from the major parties, they didn't have to look far. 


South Australian Liberal MP Chris Pyne.  


CHRISTOPHER PYNE: I think that the Government wants to move on, and I think talking about MPs' super and payments is degrading and demeaning. 


CATHERINE MCGRATH: And you can bet the Government wants to move on. It doesn't want to be reminded that John Howard faced unprecedented division in the Party room last week. And there is one other point, the Government can't gain any traction that advantages it over this issue. 


Queensland Liberal MP David Jull. 


DAVID JULL: You're never going to win on superannuation. It's a real headache and at this stage my line is the Government's line.  


CATHERINE MCGRATH: But with the Democrats stepping out today, this issue won't go away. 


Democrat Spokesman on Public Administration, Andrew Murray.  


ANDREW MURRAY: Look the electorate don't like politicians and the media don't like politicians and they will have a go at them, but the fact is that it's an essential part of our democracy and people have to be paid properly. I think it's dead right that the life gold pass and superannuation were above community expectations, but the payment of somebody like the Treasurer is way below community expectations.  


CATHERINE MCGRATH: "No way", says Greens Senator Bob Brown. He won't be supporting any pay rise for the Treasurer, the Prime Minister or anyone else. 


BOB BROWN: Look you just can't compensate for a rort. Otherwise you've got another rort. 


CATHERINE MCGRATH: And on the floor of the House of Representatives this afternoon, Mark Latham was tyring to increase pressure on the Prime Minister over the ALP plan to cut superannuation benefits for high office holders. 


MARK LATHAM: Will the Government now support the capping of superannuation entitlements for senior office bearers, including the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, at a 72.5 per cent loading? 


JOHN HOWARD: Mr Speaker I've indicated on behalf of the Government that we will introduce legislation. The legislation will not have any retrospective effect. Mr Speaker I think it is a fair and reasonable and entirely defensible, indeed well arguable proposition that people who enter into an arrangement or a part of their career on a certain basis are entitled to enjoy the entitlements of that arrangement as they enter into them.  


Speaking for myself ... 


SPEAKER: Order, the Prime Minister. Member for Ballarat. 


JOHN HOWARD: Speaking for myself, Mr Speaker, I would be very happy at any time to answer to the Australian public, both in relation to my stewardship of the position that I've held, the position I now hold and the positions I've held during my almost 30 years in public life. 


CATHERINE MCGRATH: So the answer is no. John Howard won't be doing any more dancing to Mark Latham's tune, and despite its victory last week, Labor won't want to overplay its hand on this issue because many of its own MPs are uncomfortable about too much focus on superannuation, especially now that the question is moving to MPs' pay. 


Deputy leader Jenny Macklin, for example, didn't want to be drawn this morning on the question of whether she supported a pay rise. 


JENNY MACKLIN: We've made it clear that's a decision that should be made independent of politicians, that that should go off to the Remuneration Tribunal.  


REPORTER: A lot of people are saying that, but isn't it a no-brainer that the Remuneration Tribunal is going to pay politicians... 


JENNY MACKLIN: Well I don't think that anybody would think that we should make the decision. I think it should be made independently. 


CATHERINE MCGRATH: And from politicians' pay to photographs of MPs in the chamber. And while the Parliament sits this week, fresh photographs from the House of Representatives won't be appearing in newspapers across the country. That's because photographers have been suspended for a week because they took photos of the man who jumped last week from the public gallery onto the floor of the house. 


Speaker Neil Andrew said that was against the rules. 


NEIL ANDREW: The restrictions on taking photographs of disturbances in the galleries and the chamber is designed to ensure that there is no encouragement for others to take similar action knowing they will receive publicity. Similar, but more restrictive guidelines apply in the Senate, as they do in comparable parliaments around the world. In accordance with the guidelines, I have no alternative but to impose a penalty of seven days' suspension from the galleries, effective from today. 


MARK COLVIN: The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Neil Andrew, ending Catherine McGrath's report.