There is a strong community perception that being a Parliamentarian is prestigious and lucrative. They have decent salaries, take a trip around the world at least once in their parliamentary lifetime in the finest of conditions, their privileges extend into a comfortable daily life with Comcare cars and drivers, and they never need to carry their luggage while undertaking official duties. Not to mention the special Qantas Chairman’s lounge access, which is a gateway for the privileged few at any of Australia’s major airports.
However, parliamentarians and their staff tend to work almost 24/7. Their staff’s number is on their speed dial, and there is no limit of time and space when they can be called upon. Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd supposedly only had three hours of sleep a night, and was known for his (some would say excessive) work ethic which many others around him did not share. Including some of his parliamentary staff members who lost their hair colour during his term in office! It was hard keeping up with Kevin 07, as his mind was running along two linguistic tracks, and he had a nation (and Labor Party) to run. Not to the best of success at times, partly because of the pushback against his working ways.
On 18 November 2022, there has been an updated renumeration decision as to how much parliamentary office holders earn.
|Type of Earning||Amount AUD (per annum)|
|Base salary||$217,060 p.a.|
|Parliamentary Contributory Superannuation portion, not counted as allowance||$45,320 p.a.|
|Office Holder salary – determined for the corresponding office holders as percentage of the base salary||For example, Speaker of the House would get an additional 75% of the base salary loading, equating to an extra $162,800 p.a. Leader of the Opposition would get an additional 85% of the base salary. Charing a parliamentary committee would earn a parliamentarian an extra 3% to 16% of the base salary, depending on the Committee. Shadow Minister would get 25% loading of the base salary, and can only be paid for one shadow ministry even if taking up more|
|Electorate Office allowance||$32,000 p.a. plus an additional $6,000 or $14,000 if satisfying electoral division distance requirements|
|Travel allowance and accommodation||Specific office holders have a higher allowance than others, e.g. Minister of State, or the Prime Minister of Australia. Every major city in Australia would have a specific allowance (between $299 and $639 a day).|
|Private vehicle allowance and Additional electorate allowance||The provision (by the Commonwealth) of the costs of operating and maintaining the vehicle. 78 cents per kilometer for travel to undertake parliamentary duties. There are additional allowances for spouses and family members. $19,300 p.a. if not taking up “a private plated vehicle”|
|Internet and telephone services at private residences||Paid by the Commonwealth, and an additional service allowance for specific office holders while in Canberra.|
|Post-retirement travel expenses||Three round-trips within a specific timeframe. Resettlement allowances, between 3 and 6 months of the base salary, depending on the retiring office holder’s position|
When travelling overseas on official duty, for instance as part of official parliamentary delegations, Members and Senators of the Australian Parliament would be entitled to additional benefits and daily allowances. Of course, their work-related costs associated with such a trip would also be at least partially claimed.
The actual cost for the Commonwealth
The above figures do not reflect the total cost for the Commonwealth per parliamentarian. Additional costs, such as those associated with running an electorate office, staff, travel management, and even having regular personal security assessments and, at times, protective service escort while traveling would increase the overall figure. Not to mention any additional advisory or counselling services which the parliamentarians can access on a regular basis. While our parliamentarians are on the upper end of the earnings scale when compared to an average Australian, the true cost of maintaining and protecting their office for the Commonwealth exceeds their salary and privileges amount multiple times over. This increases the need to uphold the rights, values and responsibilities associated with the holding of such a privileged public office—a noble attitude which can fall through the cracks if left unchecked.
The “culture of allowance” tainting our Parliament’s reputation
It is regretful that despite the Commonwealth’s best efforts to protect our democracy, human-error made security breaches happen inside Parliament House that taint Australia’s reputation internationally, putting a question mark over all the good work that our parliamentarians do, and services that protect them. The “culture of allowance” that runs deep inside Parliament’s corridors of power tends to extend into other spheres of life. Regrettably, what happens in the house often stays in the house, and no moral compass can fix it. What needs to happen is the overhaul of “Yes, Minister” attitudes in the name of democratic leniency, and the establishment of stronger accountability practices for the sake of Australia’s future generations and wellbeing of all parliamentary employees.