22 Aug 2018

MPs' pay freeze about doing what's right - PM

10:18 am on 22 August 2018

Freezing MPs wages for a year and seeking a change to how they're determined is about keeping the salary increases in line with the average New Zealander, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern returns to work after giving birth to her child.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Ms Ardern announced yesterday that urgent legislation would be pushed through Parliament to freeze MPs' salaries and allowances for 12 months and has asked for a change to the way such pay rises are calculated in the future.

The freeze comes after strikes by nurses, teachers and bus drivers, but Ms Ardern said that was not the reason for the move, and nor were the changes related to MPs' expenses which were released last week.

Pay is determined by the Remuneration Authority on a formula attached to public sector increases.

"We are trying to bring up some of those public sector wages for the likes of nurses," Ms Ardern told Morning Report.

"That doesn't mean that by default we want to see MPs salaries increase as well."

The amount of money involved in wasn't significant in the "grand scheme of the government's budget" - the move was about not increasing the gap between those on the highest incomes and other New Zealanders.

"It does not sit well with me or this government that at the same time we then continue to have increases that are out of kilter with what the average New Zealander is seeing."

Former Labour MP Darien Fenton, now the Meat Workers Union national organiser, said she believed the formula for setting MPs' pay was the real problem, given public sector pay rises generally were not at 3 percent.

"It can only be because they're taking into account the huge pay rises some of those CEOs have had because we all know that public servants haven't been getting three percent pay rises let alone those in the private sector. So I think it goes back to the formula."

'We need to resource the police'

Ms Ardern said yesterday's announcement of additional police was about police being able to meet the public's expectations.

With some stations in Northland not having 24-hour coverage, and reports of community members saying they'd be inclined to call the fire brigade rather than police because they would be able to attend, Ms Ardern said her concern is that police were not able to meet public expectations at present.

Police are to get an extra 1800 personnel, 934 of which will go to the regions outside of Auckland, and all 12 of the police districts will receive a boost in numbers.

"We didn't believe ultimately that you could have the mantra of preventative policing unless you actually have police able to do their job," Ms Ardern said.

"We're trying to use all the evidence and expertise we have ... to find solutions so New Zealand does not have the highest incarceration rates in the Western world but at the same time so our communities feel safer. We need to prevent crime but we also need to resource the police to respond to it."