By Mehroz Siraj
Members of the Queensland State Parliament are all set to receive a massive pay rise in the new financial year, it has been revealed.
On July 2, ABC Radio reported that Queensland MPs would now receive remunerations starting with an annual basic salary of about $194,000.
This would be at least $57000 more than what the MPs received during the financial year that just concluded, according to the report.
The reported salary increments also mean that Queensland MPs would be paid grossly more than their counterparts in Victoria and New South Wales, where salaries for parliamentarians start from $154000 and $143000 respectively.
According to the acting premier, Jeff Seeney, these increases were required as under Queensland law, wages of state parliamentarians should be only $500 lesser than those of the federal MPs.
However, assuring that these wage increases would not affect common taxpayers, Seeney said that the impact of these wage increases would be offset by the announced reductions in party spending, which was also announced.
“The funding for our political parties was cut by 50 per cent,” he told ABC Radio.
“We are determined to make sure that we will keep making those cuts until we get to a neutral position so that the taxpayer of Queensland does not have to pay an extra dollar,” he informed.
He further alleged that the 2009 decision of former premier, Anna Bligh, to freeze the wages of Queensland MPs breached the laws of the sunshine state.
However, this announcement has been strongly condemned and criticised by the state’s labour and public sector unions.
“We are appalled, as all Queenslanders are, by both the greed and the hypocrisy of the actions taken by the Government,” said Alex Scott, of the Queensland Public Sector Union.
“We think it is deeply hypocritical of this Government to allow and give themselves a $54,000 pay rise when they continue to do everything they can to stop hard-working public sector workers from getting a pay rise,” Scott told ABC Radio.
The legality of these pay hikes is already under question as many current and former state MPs are reportedly considering whether or not they should pursuit back pay and superannuation compensation lawsuits against the state government.
These pay hikes were announced less than two months after Queensland’s audit committee painted a very bleak picture of the state’s financial and economic health.
The committee that was headed by former treasurer, Peter Costello, publicly announced that the state government was burdened with debts totalling approximately $78billion.
The report also showed that the continuing bleak economic outlook of the state was having an adverse impact on local employment opportunities, business prospects and the state’s deteriorating credit ratings.
The report called on the Newman government to undertake strict financial austerity measures and to organize a massive privatization initiative aimed at selling off expensive state assets.
The income obtained from large-scale privatizations of electricity assets, ports and other infrastructure projects should then be redirected towards paying off the state’s debts, the report said.
The report also recommended that some of the income accrued from the privatization programmes be redirected towards funding health care, education and new infrastructure projects across Queensland.