Friday, 19 July 2013

They say that, if you pay

in peanuts then you will get monkeys to do a job. Perhaps we are paying in peanuts and getting monkeys in parliament then....only it seems to me that we are paying out an awful lot of peanuts.
If the facts are correct, and I have no reason to suppose that the journalist did not at least get the base figures correct, then Australian politicians have to be among the highest paid in the so-called "democracies". They may even be the highest paid.
Oh yes, one of those interesting little articles about the salaries of MPs surfaced in this morning's paper. It was probably not a good time for it to surface.
Australia is one of the most over-governed countries in the world. We have a population of about twenty-three million people. To put that into some sort of perspective the population of Greater London is, I think, around eight million.
Australia has three tiers of government. There are the local councils with their mayors and underlings, their buildings, their rules and regulations and their responsibility for libraries, swimming pools, dogs, footpaths and many other things.
There are the state and territory governments with power over all sorts of things like education, fishing rights, transport, agriculture, state taxes etc.
There is the federal government in Canberra with power over all sorts of things as well, including the right to raise taxes (the First Uniform Tax Case cemented that), postal services, the armed services etc.
There are times when law making overlaps. When that happens Commonwealth Law over-rides state law. (Human rights is one sticky area. Fiddling with environmental issues is another. The High Court famously used the external affairs power in the Constitution to over-ride the state government of Tasmania with respect to what is usually referred to as the "Tasmanian Dams Case" - which prevented the building of a dam on the Franklin River.)
All of this over-governing keeps politicians busy - or so we are told. Yes, they probably are busy. A politician who does his or her job should be busy.
But, Australian Federal politicians had just 63 sitting days last year. Their UK counterparts had 147 sitting days.
Australian Federal politicians had a base salary of $195,130 last year and their UK counterparts had a base salary equivalent of $109,863.
The article did not say what the UK Prime Minister is paid but the current local lad is getting $507,338. My guess is that the UK lad gets less than that.
People will say that, compared with some industry figures, these salaries are small. Yes, that is true. Nevertheless our politicians also have all sorts of additions to their salaries funded by tax payers. They get staff and offices (one lot in their electorate and another in Canberra or the capital city if they are state MPs). They get accommodation away from home. They get travel allowances and taxpayer provided cars - often with chauffeurs as well.
Governing us is, it seems, a multi-billion dollar business and yet it also seems that we are governed by monkeys who are paid in mountains of peanuts and are on show at a tea party just 63 days of the year.
What would you say to removing the state governments, cleaning up the councils and having the federal monkeys on show for 163 days a year? Would it work any better? Perhaps not.


cathyc said...

It is certainly disgraceful that Australian politicians justify their unreasonable salaries on the basis of comparison with grotesquely unreasonable salaries of CEOs (and such like).

On the other hand, it is not simple enough to compare Australian politicians' salaries with those of, for example, the UK's. People in the UK are paid badly. Badly enough that I feel very uncomfortable there having my hair cut or eating in a restaurant and knowing that, like in the USA, the people serving you are not paid a wage they can live on. I don't want to live in a society like that. Thankfully, Australia is not like that yet, though I guess if the conservatives get in now, they will do their best to continue the destruction of the safeguards for Australian workers. Let's hope not.

So, one of the measurements that needs to be done is Australian politicians compared with ordinary wage earners, ditto for the UK. I'm not saying that will change anything, I don't know, but it does help make a meaningful statistic.

Frances said...

"Pay peanuts, get monkeys" is highly offensive to the legions of hard working, ethical and underpaid people working with children, with the aged, and in many other valuable areas.

catdownunder said...

I was not aware I was referring to that group of people Frances. You do seem to take offence easily.

Frances said...

Perhaps I am a poor communicator, Cat.
I was referring to what "they" say: a comment so frequently spouted by CEOs and other highly paid that it seems to have become an unchallenged truism.
No, of course you were not referring to that group of people, Cat. Did my comment really suggest that you did?

My issue is with the saying itself, and its implications.