Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced a 12 month freeze in the pay of Members of Parliament. The announcement of the freeze comes as the Government carries out negotiations with teachers and the police force. It also comes as the Prime Minister announces a review of the process by which the Independent Remuneration Authority goes about its business.
This is a clever move, as it is one that will draw support from both sides of the House of Representatives. It is not often an M.P. wants to be seen out of line with public opinion on the subject of Members of Parliament’s pay. And over the last several years M.P.’s would have become aware of a growing level of public frustration with them getting pay rises whilst the median wage remained stagnant.
Members of Parliament will be well aware of the potential salaries that they could be earning in the private sector. The fact that they are not in the private sector suggests that high incomes are not necessarily the major priority – or if they are a priority, one that M.P.’s are prepared to sacrifice to ensure a job with a degree of power attached. Whilst many might have come from being directors on company boards, legal backgrounds or were in professions such as teaching, medicine, law enforcement or social work, most likely it is their experiences in these places that made them decide to become a Member of Parliament.
The fact that they are in the public sector and understand that every 3 years their job is up for grabs, will fill them with a desire to – if nothing else – at least seen to be listening to the public and getting out among voters. The many kilometres covered doing the business of the party or the Government, depending on whose benches one sits, are matched by nights working late in the office. Then there is the time away from family and dependents, the missing out on things like the children’s birthday or weddings or other family oriented events. They tend to add up.
I do note though that Stacey Kirk has compared the pay of the New Zealand Prime Minister with that of the American President. There is a bit of playing the facts a bit fast and loose here. Ms Kirk ignores in her comparison the fact that NZ$1 will only currently buy about US$0.66 at the time of publishing this article. The U.S. President is paid U.S.$400,000 per annum, which right now comes out at about N.Z.$604,000.
I hope the public enjoy the 12 months that M.P.’s wages are frozen because the cynic in me thinks that somehow – accidentally or otherwise – the first rise afterwards will come with a hiss and a roar. I hope therefore that it is appended to something like the rate of inflation or the Consumer Price Index or other appropriate measure.