Wednesday 6 July 2011
Hansard of the Legislative Council
PARLIAMENTARY SALARIES, SUPERANNUATION AND ALLOWANCES AMENDMENT
BILL 2011 (No. 41)
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 -
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
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
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
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.
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
Mrs Armitage - I think we are above car salesmen.
Mr FINCH - No, do not mention any other professions because
we might need their votes.
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
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?
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
This is Paul Harriss and Ivan Dean - they said:
' 'good god old chap, we can always drink Remy Martin' ' -
So back to being serious.
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
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
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?
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.