21 Aug 2018

Broad political support for MP pay freeze

7:07 am on 21 August 2018

Both the National Party and ACT are backing the Prime Minister's move to freeze MPs pay for a year.

National MP Amy Adams

National Party finance spokespers Adams said it was important MPs' pay was set independently Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

The Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced last night that urgent legislation will be pushed through Parliament to make sure no one gets a pay rise this year - and she has also asked for a change to the way such pay rises are calculated in the future.

It was the Green Party in 2009 that pushed for a salary freeze for MPs following the global financial crisis. They initially wanted a three-year freeze but National would support only one year.

In 2015 then Prime Minister John Key changed the law removing the authority's discretion, making it link pay rises to the average public sector increases. He said that the time he hoped that would lead to more modest increases.

A few weeks ago the authority told ministers it was planning to hike MPs' pay by about 3 percent.

The Prime Minister was not impressed.

"That is not acceptable to this government."

If the pay rise went ahead Ms Ardern's $471,000 salary would go up by just over $14,000, her deputy Winston Peters would be in for a $10,000 addition to his $334,000 pay and the National Party leader Simon Bridges would get an extra $8800.

A pay rise for MPs set against the backdrop of nurses, teachers and bus drivers striking, would have been hard to sell.

Jacinda Ardern insisted that was not the reason for the freeze.

"No, actually this really just about us, you know of course we are doing this in an environment where there are other public sector workers, nurses, teachers who are of course discussing with the crown their salaries but actually, this is about us acknowledging we are at the top end."

National's finance spokesperson Amy Adams said every time MPs' pay went up there were always calls from people who thought it was unwarranted.

"Perhaps the prime minister is concerned that with very large pay claims from nurses and teachers it would have seen a rise come up for her colleagues that she wasn't prepared to front.

"But we will take the process at face value and if she wants to check that there is a robust process in place, we are open to that."

Ms Adams said it was important MPs' pay was set independently.

"I do think you have to be very careful when politicians, for any purposes, start [weighing] into what MPs should and shouldn't be paid. I think it needs to be set by an independent agency with a clear process that everyone understands and a review of that can always be beneficial."

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Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

ACT party leader David Seymour said for once he agreed with Ms Ardern, and he didn't believe the decision had anything to do with all of the strikes.

"There's a long term problem here - if MPs pay is linked to the public sector pay, the incentive is to pay public servants more money, the job of politicians is to grow productivity across the economy and the way to create that incentive is to link our pay to productivity growth and average wages across the New Zealand economy."

Legislation enacting the pay freeze will be debated by Parliament when it resumes in two weeks time.