John Key has written to the Remuneration Board imploring them not to increase wages for MPs and judges in the annual review later this year.
Now, I’ve stated my view on this issue – on National Radio the other week and last year in this post. I reckon MPs’ wages, along with the minimum wage and benefits, should increase at the same rate as the median wage or inflation, whichever is higher. That would mean smaller increases for MPs on the whole (and deny the media a cheap anti-politician story each year) but that doesn’t mean I support Key’s call for an MP wage freeze. Far from it.
First, we should all be uncomfortable with the PM trying to exert pressure on an independent body. Next he’ll be telling the Reserve Bank to change interest rates – whoops, he already has. Labour Ministers generally did a good job of keeping to the right side of this line and when they did, rarely, overstep National seized on that as evidence that public service neutrality was compromised. Key should live up to his campaign hype and keep his nose out of the decisions of independent bodies.
Secondly, we shouldn’t turn politicians’ pay into a political football. A freeze this year? Why not next year too? Hell, why not a pay cut? When pay is politicised politics becomes a rich man’s game.
Thirdly, aren’t there more important things Key should be doing than trying to exert unconstitutional influence (don’t confuse unconstitutional with illegal) over the Remuneration Board? Even if he does cause them not to rise MPs’ and judges’ wages, so what? 122 MPs, average pay about $150K, cancelling a 5% pay rise saves us $900,000. Let’s double that to include the judges. We’re talking 0.003% of government spending – 15 minutes’ worth.
The previous government’s failure was in inadequately managing the media – failing to communicate its story, its values, its achievements. This government’s failure seems to be in putting media management ahead of managing the country – the job for which they are employed.
Key needs to stop playing for petty PR stories and get focused on things that matter.