Pay packet increase … Robert Brown, Shooters and Fishers Party.
BARRY O’FARRELL has gifted one of the key crossbench MPs who support his government a $25,000 pay rise.
A new parliamentary pay scale, introduced without fanfare last month, shows Robert Brown, one of two Shooters and Fishers Party members holding the balance of power in the parliament, is being paid $161,000 a year.
Mr Brown’s pay packet has increased by $24,773 since the O’Farrell government took power and the votes of the Shooters, along with the Christian Democrats’ Paul Green and the Reverend Fred Nile, became vital to the government passing controversial laws such as the privatisation of electricity generators and the winding back of workers’ compensation.
The windfall is due to a decision by the Premier to pay the chairs of general purpose standing committees for the first time. They are now paid $8722 on top of a new MPs’ base salary of $143,00, plus an additional $8722 ”expense allowance”.Advertisement
The decision has drawn the ire of the Labor opposition, who say general purpose committees often meet for little more than three hours during one fortnight a year for budget estimates hearings.
Under Labor, there was no remuneration for chairing the five general purpose committees because aside from a short meeting every three months, the job is largely to conduct budget estimates hearings, which takes up one fortnight a year.
Mr O’Farrell broke with tradition by appointing government MPs to chair most of the general purpose committees, rewarding factional heavyweights such as the right’s Marie Ficarra and the Christian right’s Matthew Mason-Cox.
A curiosity about the decision to pay the five committee chairs is that only Mr Brown and Natasha Maclaren-Jones, MLC, have benefited. Mr Mason-Cox and Ms Ficarra are unable to claim the salary and expenses because they are already paid about $170,000 as parliamentary secretaries.
The fifth chair of a general purpose committee, Mr Nile, told The Sun-Herald that he has not taken any remuneration for committee work during his years in Parliament. Mr Nile is paid almost $190,000 due to his title of assistant president of the Legislative Council, a position created under Labor.
Mr Brown said he was not claiming extra money and had no control over what the Parliament paid him.”[His colleague Robert] Borsak and I have dropped a fair bit of income to come into Parliament,” he said.
Mr Brown’s committee, the general purpose standing committee number five, has completed an inquiry into coal seam gas and is now conducting a separate inquiry into management of public land.
The Labor upper house MP Walt Secord said it was ”extraordinary” Mr O’Farrell had awarded such large pay rises at a time when public servants were being made redundant and fire stations were being closed due to government cost-cutting.
”It’s also extraordinary that we had to stumble across this in the government gazette,” he said.
One MP on a general purpose committee, who did not want to be named, told The Sun-Herald the committees mainly ”pottered around”.
”Twenty thousand dollars for chairing one of these committees seems a bit rich,” the MP said.
A spokesman for Mr O’Farrell said salaries and allowances had been adjusted so that the increased number of committees caused no extra cost to taxpayers.