8 Apr 2024

MPs 'probably' deserve pay rises, former minister Chris Finlayson says

7:00 pm on 8 April 2024

MPs need to stop turning down pay rises and take what they are offered, a former cabinet minister says.

It has been six-and-a-half years since MPs got a pay bump.

Dame Jacinda Ardern instituted a pay freeze for MPs in 2018 and her cabinet voted to take a pay cut in 2020, during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The independent Remuneration Authority is due to deliver its latest verdict on MPs' pay in the next couple of weeks.

It comes as public sector jobs are being slashed, with more than 900 roles cut so far in a bid to reduce government spending.

Former attorney-general Chris Finlayson told Checkpoint MPs "probably" deserved a pay rise as salaries had not risen in more than five years.

Turning down pay rises was "virtue signalling", he said.

"They should be completely indifferent to what they receive and just accept it and get on with it."

Currently, backbench MPs receive an annual salary of $163,961, while anyone who chairs a select committee gets $179,713.

Cabinet ministers are paid $296,007, as is the leader of the opposition.

The prime minister's salary is $471,049.

Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson

Former attorney-general Chris Finlayson. Photo: RNZ / Mihingarangi Forbes

According to Stats NZ, the average annual salary or wage for full-time employees in the quarter to December 2023 was $82,576.

Finlayson said MPs' salaries should remain high so that people from diverse backgrounds would choose that career path.

"I always worry that if salaries aren't enough you're going to have every rich people entering parliament and only them, or the virtue signallers," he said.

"There has to be a proper balance of what is an appropriate salary for the type of work that's done."

Going into parliament should not mean "they don sackcloth and ashes and refuse renumeration", he said.

"I look at it in comparison to other very senior positions ... it's way behind what I consider to be an appropriate figure for a cabinet minister."

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