Wednesday 6 July 2011
Hansard of the Legislative Council


Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - In spite of what she says, she is a hard act to follow. I have really appreciated listening to the contributions by the members today, as I did yesterday. I must say, although I did not make a contribution because a lot of my contribution, after what was said, would have been personal and I am sure I did not want to bore you -
Members laughing.
Mr FINCH - Just to draw a reasonably long bow, with the discussion yesterday I remember in my involvement with the ABC, we were assessed every year by management from Hobart, Launceston and Sydney. I was assessed on the standard that I reached; I either gained increments or lost increments, it could be in the one fell swoop. That was the situation that I worked under for 25 years. It made my work that much better. But when I came from the ABC and eventually into Parliament and once I was elected I thought, how do you get paid here, what do you get paid, when do I pick up my big - what is the thing when you do eight years?
Mr Mulder - Wheelbarrow.
Mr FINCH - What happens here? How does it all work? Then I was told about the salary, how you achieve that, what your electoral allowance is all about, and I remember thinking about the process by which we receive increases in our remuneration and that it was done independently. I went 'phew!' I must say that I was a little bit concerned when I came. I remember many years ago, Richard Sheriff campaigning against our superannuation which led to the payout for parliamentarians that he was very opposed to, and he led a strong and long campaign that saw the diminution of remuneration to parliamentarians who had been here for eight years. Whether that is a good thing or a bad thing, I will not join in that argument; I am not part of that process. I accept that I am on 9 per cent, the same as most members here, others are on a different scale and there is a more remunerative one for those who have been here longer.
I remember that campaign of Richard Sheriff's and thinking that it is all well and good to kick a pollie and say, 'You have your snouts in the trough' and all that sort of thing but I thought to myself, 'What is happening here? How are we going to attract people to make a career out of being in Parliament, contributing to their community through being a politician when they not only have to put up with that low esteem in which we are held in the community and when everybody - the media are probably our worst enemy - is prepared to have a go at us at every twist and turn and you have the community prepared to knock you at the end?' Not only that, we have politicians the world over who are prepared to make the silliest mistakes and be involved in corruption and malfeasance and all sorts of things. What happens is that they are all labelled politicians.
I was interested to hear your comment, member for Windermere, about how you refer to yourself as a member of the upper House. I just say that I am a parliamentarian - a rose by any other name, as I suggested before. However, the point is that we get lumped into that grab bag of politicians. Whenever a politician mucks up or whenever there is a bad look for a politician on television, whether it is Federal - there is plenty going on in the State, don't worry - or overseas, the politician banner fits on us as well. Then we come into that and everyone says, 'Those politicians'.
Ms Forrest - Through you, Madam President - you often get out in the community and people say, 'Those politicians, they are a bunch of losers' or whatever, and you say, 'Well, I am one of them', and they say, 'Oh no, not you, not you'. So who are they talking about then? You get that often.
Mr FINCH - But we get tarred with that brush. And we wear that. That is okay. That goes with the territory. That is fine; I am prepared to accept that. The problem is and it is my belief that that is a barrier that is going to stop good, young, professional, intelligent people from coming into our career, from coming into this place because they are going to get tarred with the same brush. They would ask, 'And tell me, what is the remuneration?' When they check into it they think, 'Hang on, I am young, intelligent and I have a lot to offer, my family have grown up, I have a relative amount of life experience, I might be around 50 years of age, why the hell would I go in there - and cop all that? Why would I do it? I would stay in the profession that I am in at the moment, where I am respected, people still see that I have another 15-20 years to contribute and what are they going to pay me? A third of what I am getting now!' Those who are watching -
Members laughing.
Mr FINCH - do not think for one minute I would say, 'Poor me, is that a tear I can see in my eye, I am not getting enough remuneration'. It is not about that. I am quite content with what I am getting and I am quite happy to take the 9 per cent, but I am talking about the future: of people coming into this place. We are not going to attract the sort of people that we want to come in here to take our seats, to take over from us and to be representatives here for the people. We are not going to attract people of calibre to come in here. That is my concern about salaries.
Mr Mulder - I will take that as a personal reflection, apart from the one-third cap in pay, of course.
Mr FINCH - I do feel quite strongly that we also have to be mindful of the future of this place. We have to set a good example to the community and to people - not so much our peers, but the younger ones - to follow in our footsteps, come in here and be good representatives. Salaries should always be altered by an independent body. That is my bottom line. We should not have, as they say, our hands on the lever. We should neither set our remuneration nor alter it. I am still listening to the debate. We are getting down to tintacks now, and I have the two options: one is where we reject this bill that the Government is bringing in and then send it back and say, 'No, this is not the right process to do this. This is all about populist claptrap, that is all this is about, one-upmanship downstairs' - or 'one-upwomanship', no that does not work - do you know what I mean? 'Oh hang on, we'll knock off 2 per cent.' 'No, we will knock off 4 per cent.' 'No, we'll take the lot.' Give them nothing and take them nowhere.
Members laughing.
Mr FINCH - Do you know what I mean? That is all rubbish. It is treating the process with disrespect and we can well do without it. It demeans us and what we are trying to contribute here and we become the monkeys on the stick. We are being played off a break while downstairs they do their populist rubbish at our expense. Again, what does this do for us in the media and out there in people's estimation? Down and down and down we go. Where are we now? On the scale of people you would open your door to, to trust, I think we were at number 26.
Mrs Armitage - I think we are above car salesmen.
Mr FINCH - No, do not mention any other professions because we might need their votes.
Members laughing.
Mr FINCH - We are right down there and how are we going to redress that? How are we going to get ourselves back up there? It is these sorts of debates that denigrate us.
Ms Forrest - One of the things when I stood, coming from being a nurse, which is at the top - nurses and doctors are at the top of that list - nearly everyone asked me, 'why would you go from a profession like that to one in the gutter?' That is literally what they said and it is what you are talking about. I said, 'I intend to practise politics the same way I do midwifery, with great integrity and honesty and things like that, and I think I can do that'. But this is the whole thing. Why would you do it? They kept asking, 'why would you want to do it?' It is certainly not for the money.
Mr FINCH - Yes, that will come into people's minds more and more when they start to see that they are not getting the type of people in here that they actually want. People have to make a huge financial sacrifice to come in here.
Madam PRESIDENT - Let us stick with the principle and not talk about us.
Mr FINCH - Yes. What I want to do, the reason I was prompted to get up and make a contribution was that I heard the honourable member for Murchison say, 'I had an e-mail' and I did not know whether to read it in, but I cannot find it anyway. But I did receive one -
Ms Forrest - Not the same one as I did, though.
Mr FINCH - that I did respond to and I got an appreciation of my response. This was the e-mail that I received - I will not mention the name because I do not have permission to do that - and this first little bit you will appreciate very much I am sure:
'I'm a West Tamar resident and I believe that you do a good job' -
Members laughing.
Mr FINCH - Who laughed? No, this is his e-mail. Now I come to think of it, how did that letter get here?
Mr Parkinson - So how is Grandpa?
Members laughing.
Mr FINCH - Where was I?
'... you do a good job of representing your electorate and providing an independent voice. BUT, this was left by a commenter on The Mercury website this morning:
'Our MLC's adorn their silk smoking jackets and head for the upper house lounge, they settle into their Chesterfield sofa's, chortling into their French cognacs as they glance at the Mercury headlines. 'Good grief' cries the honourable Mr Finch, 'the peasants must be crazy, they want to restrict our hard earned pay rises, how dare they'. Taylor and Forrest squirming uneasily, agree wholeheartedly, 'the premier has no respect, who does she think she is?' says Adriana as Ruth nods in agreement. Meanwhile, behind the Cuban cigar smokescreen, the chorused laughter of Messrs Hall, Harriss and Dean could be heard above the 1812 overture being played on the Gramophone nearby, 'is this the end of the Courvoisier?' says Greg, 'good god old chap,' '-
This is Paul Harriss and Ivan Dean - they said:
' 'good god old chap, we can always drink Remy Martin' ' -
So back to being serious.
Members laughing.
Mr Harriss - What about the rest of the mob in here? What about everyone else?
Mr Mulder - We are in the outer sanctum.
Mr FINCH - Well, they did not rate a mention. I did not mention that.
He said, and this is a bit of an insight - it was quite sobering - into the person who sent me that e-mail:
'While I acknowledge and appreciate the work that you do, the above sarcastic quote is getting closer to the truth every day. Frankly in this case a lot less about 'independent process' than I do about politicians who listen to their electorate'.
I think that sentence is a bit mucked up.
'You blokes are taking home multiple times the average Tasmanian salary and have additional privileges and perks that most of us don't even know the full extent of. Whilst I realise that Giddings and Hodgman are largely playing a political game, perception is reality Kerry. Out here we are doing it tough - a lot tougher than you realise, and it goes a long way if we see that you are willing to make some sacrifices, even though we all know they are largely token.
While I appreciate your point that it is an independent authority that approves your payrise, it does not make it any less inappropriate. I have no control over the large banks paying their directors $20 million a year, but that doesn't change the fact that I find it out of touch and obscene, just as I find your stance on this issue. Arguing that it's OK for you to pocket the money because you didn't ask for, or approve it, misses the point. You and your colleagues should be investigating the process that provides unacceptable payrises to politicians in a recessionary economic climate caused in large part by the uncontrolled spending and policies of those very politicians'.
Ms Forrest - Isn't that what we are suggesting here? An appropriate process?
Mr FINCH - Yes, absolutely or better still - this was a message for me I think, this is rather personal - summon the courage to insist that the independent process be scrapped and align your pay rises to those of the rest of the public service.
Ms Forrest - That is what I suggested be done.
Mr FINCH - I think there are some messages in there, but there is an impression that we are getting from somebody about how they feel. The person wrote that message on the Mercury website and that is the impression that people have. That is the image that we have to fight against. I would say removing the Chesterfield lounges would be a good start but maintain the supply of Courvoisier and have the Remy Martin on stand-by.
Mr Wilkinson - You were saying his or her suggestion was that you should align yourself to public service wages. Which area of public service wages do you align yourself to?
[3.00 p.m.]
Mr FINCH - No. My consideration now is, do I not agree with this bill? That is looming in my mind but having read your amendment I am torn between that as well because I think that sends a message too. I still believe, as I did when I came into Parliament, that to have my salary and my remuneration divorced from politicians with their hands on the levers makes me more comfortable because somebody else independently is making an assessment of the work that we do. When I talked about the ABC and 25 years of assessments every year, that committee, independent of me and my family and where my remuneration was going to go, made the decision about whether I should get extra money, should stay at the level that I am at or get a diminution in money.
Mr Wilkinson - Did you go up to 42 in the end?
Mr FINCH - I got to increment 42 and that was the highest in Australia. Thanks for allowing me that opportunity to brag.
I hope other people have a chance to speak because I have to toss up now on the decision that I need to make.