Acting Prime Minister Bill English admitted tonight it was “a bit embarrassing” to be given a pay rise of more than $12,000 a year when workers were being hit by redundancies.
MPs have been given pay rises of between 3.8 percent and 4.8 percent, backdated to July this year.
The increases, determined by the independent Remuneration Authority and gazetted today, push up Prime Minister John Key’s salary to $393,000 from $375,000.
English, his deputy, gets a salary of $276,700, up from $264,500.
“Yes, that’s a bit embarrasing,” English said when he was asked about the pay rise on TV One’s CloseUp programme.
“I think it reflects a time when public service salaries were going up pretty fast.
“I can assure you over the next couple of years MPs won’t be getting those kinds of pay rises, not many people will.”
English said he thought individual MPs could say “no” to their pay rises.
Asked whether he was going to say “no” English replied: “Now that’s a good question. I honestly haven’t considered, I don’t know what the rise is, I’ve just heard there’s been an announcement.”
Under the determination Cabinet ministers’ salaries increase to $243,700 from $233,000 and ministers outside cabinet will be paid $204,300, up from $195,700.
The Leader of the Opposition, Labour’s Phil Goff, will be paid $243,700, the same as a cabinet minister.
Goff was asked about the pay rises when he held a press conference to announce Labour’s new shadow cabinet.
He said he had been in Parliament a long time and had never made a submission to the Remuneration Authority.
“I don’t believe it’s my role as a parliamentarian to be involved in that process.”
The basic salary for backbench MPs has increased to $131,000 from $126,000 although many of them get more than that because they hold a variety of positions like select committee chairs or deputy chairs.
All MPs get a range of expenses and allowances. Ministers who are not resident in Wellington get free houses, and those who live in the capital get a housing allowance.
The Remuneration Authority said it had considered salary movements in the state sector when it made the determinations.
“It has long been accepted that it is not appropriate for remuneration of those in elected office to be closely tied to the private sector, or to state-owned entities operating in a commercial environment, notwithstanding the responsibilities of senior politicians in particular,” it said.
“It has been recognised that there is a need to maintain some relativity across the salaries paid to the Executive and other Members of Parliament, the judiciary, and the public service.”
It said maintaining those relativities had become increasingly challenging as salaries for senior state sector positions, the legal profession and related professions had outstripped the salary movements of other people.
“On balance, the Authority has looked to movements in salary and the Consumer Price Index in the broader economy in applying increases ranging between 3.8 percent and 4.8 percent to parliamentary salaries, again modestly recognising the size of the responsibilities placed on members of the Executive and party leaders.”