The Remuneration Tribunal has this week decided to grant an increase in pay to public officeholders commencing in the new financial year.
Some members of society are outraged that public officers are seeing an increase to their wages at a time when the Fair Work Commission has just ruled that penalty rates will be cut for people working in fast food, hospitality, retail, pharmacy, and other industries.
This outrage is exacerbated by the fact that this will coincide with the lifting of the government’s deficit levy on Australia’s highest income earners, which will be removed from July 1, lowering the marginal tax rate to 47%.
Unfortunately however, such outrage is arguably misplaced.
Politicians wages are determined by the Remuneration Tribunal, which is an independent statutory authority that has been in existence since the 1970s. The current members of the Tribunal have very eclectic backgrounds, in public companies such as BUPA Australia Health, Westpac Bank, and BlueScope Steel as well as charities such as the McGrath Foundation, the National Heart Foundation, the Sydney Children’s Hospital and Mission Australia. Some are lawyers, accountants and other educated professionals.
The point is, the government and opposition have not simply gotten together and said “we deserve more money” – an independent body has determined so.
So why are people so angry that the people running our nation, together with its one and a half trillion dollar economy, are paid well for doing so?
It seems some of the population get so caught up in click-bait media about how terrible our politicians are that they forget that Australians enjoy universal health care, hospitals in every major city or town, a strong banking sector, independent overseers of monetary policy, universal high-quality education, access to tertiary studies, superannuation, a welfare system that supports the elderly and infirm and a genuine democracy in which people vote with their feet and keep the government accountable.
In an ideal world it would be great to have perfect infrastructure, fifty doctors in every emergency ward and enough money to fund our entire population into a comfortable retirement, but like every nation, we must work within the ambits of limited resources. Despite this, our young country, in its various political incarnations since Federation, has consistently out performed many of our global neighbours. Neighbours who have a far longer history and a far greater population than ours.
When did some of us forget that ours is the lucky country?
And on the topic of pollies wages for specifically, let’s not forget that old adage “if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys”.