From the Newsroom

Councillors to receive ‘optional’ superannuation payments

Geoff Helisma

At the March 22 Clarence Valley Council (CVC) meeting, councillors voted 5-3 to be paid superannuation if they choose to.

The payment is “additional to the annual fee paid to elected members” and “will be included in the draft 2022/2023 budget currently being prepared”, the report to council stated

Councillors have until April 29 to advise acting general manager (AGM) Laura Black if they “wish to either forgo the superannuation contribution payment or receive a payment that is less than the superannuation guarantee contribution (currently 10%)”.

The opportunity to receive superannuation will apply from July 1, 2022, following amendments to s254B of the Local Government Act 1993 (NSW).

Councillors Johnstone, Tiley, Clancy, Toms and Pickering supported the optional addition of superannuation to councillors’ remuneration; councillors Smith, Whaites and Novak were opposed; Cr Bill Day was absent due to illness.

At the meeting, Cr Jeff Smith moved a motion to “not approve payment of superannuation contributions to councillors”, however, upon being defeated councillors adopted the AGM’s recommendation.

Each of the councillors, apart from the mayor, Ian Tiley, spoke to the item, however, in an interview the following day on FM 103.1 Loving Life, he said the decision “enabled councillors to seek superannuation if they wanted to, but it’s up to the individual whether they choose to or not.

“Local Government New South Wales has been advocating for superannuation for councillors for a very long time,” he said.

“The objective is to provide a little bit more money, and, in the case of [CVC’s] councillors, they will be putting aside about $2,000 a year, to try and attract younger people, or women with children, perhaps, just to give a little bit more incentive to put [their] hand up for public life.

“But, of course, it’s a horrible time to be talking about more money for councils, given the way that people are struggling, certainly post the flood.”

At the extraordinary CVC meeting on January 11, councillors – apart from councillors Smith, Whaites and Novak – endorsed their $24,810 per annum (pa) allowance.

The deputy mayor’s total remuneration is $31,950 pa, and the mayor’s is $78,950 pa – a total of $284,152 pa.


What councillors said about superannuation


Cr Jeff Smith said he’d like to see “this council show some leadership” and that it would be “ethically extreme to pay ourselves super on top of what we already get”, given that people in the valley had been “suffering greatly” from the fires, floods and Covid pandemic over recent years.

Regarding adding superannuation to a councillor’s remuneration in order to entice younger people to participate in local government, Cr Smith said he had “never met a person under 30 who has been motivated by superannuation packages”.

“I know they’re motivated by far greater ideals than that,” he said.

He said he’d asked 11 [young] people whether they’d run for council during his election campaign.

“They all had good excuses, but I can tell you, none of them involved pay or superannuation, or the lack thereof.

During his right of reply, Cr Smith said he wasn’t a councillor “for the sake of the money”.

“In fact, if they paid me nothing it wouldn’t have mattered … personally I won’t be taking any superannuation, as a sign that I understand the pain that’s going on out there economically,” he said.

Cr Peter Johnstone said “it was about having a choice”, whether or not a councillor accepted superannuation payments.

“We want to make sure that money need not be a reason that people would not choose to go on council,” he said.

“This isn’t about us voting ourselves $2,000 in superannuation; it gives the opportunity for people to gain superannuation if that was felt to be [right for] their personal circumstances.

“So, while it might not be a popular thing, I think it is the right thing … to allow councillors to get superannuation.”

Cr Alison Whaites highlighted the impact of floods, drought, fires and covid on the wider community.

“It’s been said that this is to attract women and young people to run for council – I don’t think that is correct, because I’m a 41-year-old female and I am opposed to this drive for superannuation … as I was opposed to giving councillors a pay rise,” she said.

Cr Steve Pickering said councils needed “to encourage every Australian to have the opportunity to stand for council”.

“I believe that we need to set that benchmark extremely high to attract anyone to stand for council, whether they’re young or old, no matter where they come from,” he said.

“I’d like to see a more diverse council … and I don’t want to see superannuation or remuneration as a roadblock.

“Councillors always have an opportunity of saying ‘no’ to remuneration [and/or] … superannuation; they don’t have to take any of it, or all of it.

“I think we need to look to the future and those who come after us.”

Cr Greg Clancy said he “won’t be claiming” superannuation, “but this is not about us claiming superannuation, it’s about the whole system”.

“We should have a system where councillors can feel comfortable in receiving a remuneration that is reasonable,” he said.

“I think we’ve got to be sensible; I don’t want to rip off the community, I don’t want more than I deserve, and I don’t believe I’m getting more than I deserve.

“I’m a hard-working councillor and we need to be paid a reasonable amount.

“Superannuation is just another way of acknowledging that there are people who may need it.”

Cr Debrah Novak said, “My understanding is that good leaders eat last [and] … will be with their people; and a lot of our people are suffering.”

She said “money had nothing to do with” her running for council.

She said it was “the timing of the meetings” that stopped young people from running for council.

“Young people are not inspired by money, but by the people who surround them,” she said.

Cr Karen Toms said that she, too, “would like to see a more diverse council – women, different ethnicities, rich people, poor people” – and that she would “decline” accepting superannuation.

“We are preparing [the way] for our future councillors,” she said.