When New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ahdern announced on April 15 that her country’s politicians and senior bureaucrats would take a 20 per cent pay cut for six months due the coronavirus pandemic, many Australians wondered if something similar would happen here.
Prime Minister Ahdern said the decision was taken “to close the gap between groups of people across New Zealand in different positions” and that politicians taking the pay cut would show “leadership and solidarity” with those workers who have lost their livelihoods.
Subsequently Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, however, told Perth radio station 6PR that “it’s not something that’s being considered”.
SBS reported that Prime Minister Morrison said, however, that “there won’t be any pay rises right across the public service” – they have been deferred for six months.
The Independent spoke with state MP for Clarence Chris Gulaptis and federal MP for Page Kevin Hogan, seeking their views on the matter.
Both MPs said they had been busier than ever, particularly spending a lot of time talking to their constituents about the pandemic’s impact on their lives.
“I’ve been working from home, answering emails from home, and trying to adapt to the new norm,” Mr Gulaptis said, “It’s not easy.”
Mr Gulaptis saw the lighter side of the situation, though, quipping that it was “easier to dress in boardies and t-shirt than getting dressed up”.
When asked if he and his cohort were still working hard, despite parliament being suspended, he said: “To be honest, I think we are, we are still working, taking phone calls and I’ve found my job to be harder because I’m dealing with a lot of people who are stressed, [both] businesses and individuals.
“They’re also coming to us to help them through the bureaucratic maze of receiving a grant or to point them in the right direction [to apply for one].
“My workload has increased, but I do understand that we all have to share the pain.
“I support the freezing of politicians’ salaries; and the longer it goes on we will need to look at more across the three levels of government – not just those elected but also salaried staff.
“If it goes on for a long time [we might] have to adjust things downwards.”
Kevin Hogan was not contactable on Friday April 17 because he was “on teleconferences all day”.
However, Mr Hogan called the Independent on Monday morning.
“We’ve had a lot of enquiries from the public,” he said, “JobKeeper enquiries from businesses and other assistance enquiries.
“The office is exceptionally busy now, regarding my ministerial role and as an MP locally and in Canberra.”
On the suspension of parliament till August, Mr Hogan said that was mainly about people not being able to attend without being affected by some state laws.
“[Self] quarantine regulations are not viewed as being logistically workable,” he said.
On April 2 the Parliament of Australia website advised that “both the House and the Senate resolved additional practice and procedure changes, such as being empowered to meet, with the agreement of the Government and the Opposition, ‘in a manner and form not otherwise provided’ in their respective Standing Orders.
“The House of Representatives has also authorised the Government and Opposition to determine, by agreement, the rules and orders necessary to enable such meetings to take place, with the equivalent authority for determining the rules and orders for Senate meetings being given to the Senate Procedure Committee.
“The quorum for the House of Representatives is 31 members; for the Senate the quorum is one-quarter of the Senate (19 senators).”