The Daily Telegraph today reports that Bob Carr is being paid $500,000 a year by Macquarie Bank for his
consultancy, yet will remain based in his taxpayer funded office in Governor Macquarie Tower. While not begrudging Carr’s right to earn a living, is this really no more than unadulterated greed, especially when you consider that Carr’s wife is a multi-millionaire through her printing business?

And to think that Bob even promised to introduce some sort of code of conduct about post-political employment after the disgraceful arrangements which saw his former racing and gaming minister, Richard Face, stitched up by ICAC, the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption, for using ministerial resources to establish his own grog and gaming consultancy.

Will ICAC investigate the Carr situation? Somehow I don’t think that ICAC commissioner Irene Moss, the wife of Macquarie Bank CEO Allan Moss who was appointed to the position by Carr in 1999, will have an appetite for this one. Besides, she’s fundamentally conflicted.

There’s no doubt that Australia’s senior politicians are underpaid – but how can the system be fixed? We
already have two tiers of pay with all new politicians only getting regular super courtesy of Mark Latham’s most significant contribution to Australian public life.

The public probably wouldn’t object to pay rises, provided some of the perks were curtailed in the same
package. If politicians were stripped of their frequent flyer points, gold passes, unlimited petrol, travel allowances and pre-55 super entitlements, this would be quite an easy sell.

Here is a suggested new pay scale for our political class which would be indexed to inflation:

Federal Politics

Prime Minister: $600,000
Opposition Leader: $500,000
Cabinet Ministers (maximum of 12): $400,000
Outer Ministry: $300,000
Shadow Cabinet Ministers $300,000
Outer Ministry shadows: $250,000
Backbenchers: $200,000

State Politics

Premier $500,000
Opposition Leader: $350,000
Cabinet Ministers (maximum of 12): $300,000
Shadow Cabinet Ministers $250,000
Outer Ministry: $250,000
Outer Ministry shadows: $200,000
Backbenchers: $175,000

If it was clearly argued and slated to be introduced in 2010 with no net cost to taxpayers when you account for all perks, super changes and the like, then surely the public would wear it. Then you would have fewer retiring politicians cross the ethical line and try to cash in on their knowledge and connections within weeks of leaving office. Of course, an official two year cooling off period before taking such jobs should be introduced with this package.

Is anyone else for encouraging a mature debate about such changes? Otherwise, we really are headed down the peanuts and monkeys path, especially at a state level. The Latham Diaries will also deter many talented people from putting their names forward, so some changes to the salary packages would help redress this situation.

Peter Fray

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