Pay freeze for MPs and top public servants

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has indicated that pay rises for federal politicians and senior public services will be put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic. Judges and ministerial staff are also among the public sector workers whose pay will be frozen. Former Queensland premier Campbell Newman has suggested that public servants on annual salaries of more than $100,000 should take a pay cut of 10 per cent, given that many workers in the private sector have been stood down or laid off:

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann told The Australian on Tuesday the government would ask the Remuneration Tribunal to freeze pay for all positions it oversaw. This included a pay freeze for secretaries of departments (who earn $776,000-$914,000 a year), as well as heads of agencies, including corporate, financial and competition regulators.

“It’s a clear expectation there’ll be no annual salary increase for these positions until after the corona­virus crisis has been resolved­,” Senator Cormann said.

The government would also ask the Australian Public Service Commissioner to freeze pay for the 3240-strong (as of June 2019) Senior Executive Service, who in 2018 were each paid between $238,000 and $453,000.

…former public service­ commissioner John Lloyd said governments could cull staff or reduce pay if they needed to.

“In extraordinary times, it is legitimate to ask that increases for senior public servants be deferred, and depending on how severe economic circumstances are later this year, even cut,” he said.

For years public servants have enjoyed greater wage growth and job security than their private sector counterparts:

So, it seems fair that their pay is frozen given the private sector is facing mass retrenchment.

Relatively speaking, public servants are among the luckiest in the country. Their jobs are safe, they have access to generous sick leave, and their incomes are all but guaranteed. It is the private sector economy that is facing a beating.

Leith van Onselen
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