‘It is what it is’: Politicians defend their hefty pay boost

Jane Hume and Clare O'Neil have found common ground on a contentious issue – pay rises for politicians.

Jane Hume and Clare O'Neil have found common ground on a contentious issue – pay rises for politicians. Photos: AAP

Politicians from both sides of the spectrum have defended the biggest lift in their pay in a decade, with a leading senator saying the looming bumper hike “is what it is”.

Federal politicians will soon get a 4 per cent pay rise in a decision announced on Tuesday, taking the basic salary of a backbench MP from $217,060 to about $225,742 – more than twice the average full-time salary.

The increase will take Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s annual pay to $586,929, while Opposition Leader Peter Dutton will receive $417,623.

The increase – which also applies to the holders of some public offices, such as judges and some executive appointments and was set by the independent Remuneration Tribunal – is larger than the wage price index, which has grown by 3.6 per cent in the past year.

It comes as many Australians battle surging mortgage costs and grocery and energy bills as inflation has soared to record heights.

On Wednesday, however, senior politicians of both major stripes defended the decision to pocket the hefty increase.

“I think it’s really important for your viewers to understand that we don’t set our own pay, this is done completely independently of us as MPs,” Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil told Seven’s Sunrise.

“I think every Australian can agree that our focus is aptly on lifting the wages of the people we represent in parliament and that is why you have [seen] a big increase in the minimum wage, we have supported a 15 per cent increase for aged-care workers and we are very focused on getting wages moving across the country.”

On the same show, senior Coalition senator Jane Hume was quizzed on the timing of the pay rise – and asked if “anyone [was] putting up a hand to give it back”. Senator Hume also pointed out the decision was not made by politicians.

“The tribunal sets not just our pay but the pay of senior public servants, the pay of judges – it’s not something that is within our control,” she said.

“That said, you know, even Australia’s favourite politicians … can see this would annoy people when they see what the amount is – but it is what it is, I’m afraid.”

The pay rise does not include the various allowances, many of which were increased by a modest amount late last week.

Mr Albanese’s pay rise puts him just under the salary of US President Joe Biden on $588,750, and easily eclipses Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s $422,585.

Rishi Sunak, the British Prime Minister, brings home a comparatively lowly $309,000.

They all pale in comparison with the earnings of Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who brings in more than 2.4 million a year as the world’s highest-earning democratically elected government leader.

The Remuneration Tribunal has described pay rises for Australia’s federal politicians in the past decade as “conservative”. MPs received no salary increases in 2020 and 2021 and a 2.75 per cent rise in 2022.

“The tribunal is obliged to consider the outcome of the Annual Wage Reviews of the Fair Work Commission in its annual review deliberations,” the tribunal said on Tuesday.

“The tribunal also considered the federal government’s budget outlook and published data on movements in both private and public sector remuneration.

“Remuneration data in general reflects a continued period of increasing wage growth across the economy, with the annual rate of growth rising for each of the last nine quarters from a low point of 1.4 per cent in the December quarter 2020 and March quarter 2021.”

Stay informed, daily
A FREE subscription to The New Daily arrives every morning and evening.
The New Daily is a trusted source of national news and information and is provided free for all Australians. Read our editorial charter
Copyright © 2024 The New Daily.
All rights reserved.