Victorian Members of Parliament are facing criticism for their reluctance to pledge their recent pay increase to charitable causes.
The controversial decision by the Victorian Independent Remuneration Tribunal will raise backbench MPs' salaries to nearly $200,000 and elevate Premier Daniel Andrews' annual wage by over $16,000, making him the highest-paid Premier in the nation.
The independent tribunal's ruling, released on Tuesday, decreed that all MPs' pay would surge by 3.5 percent starting from July 1.
This adjustment would result in a backbencher earning $198,839, while Premier Andrews would see his pay rise by $16,272 to reach $481,190, including expenses of up to $60,000.
The decision has sparked outrage, particularly because public sector pay increases have been capped at 3 percent. The community is grappling with soaring interest rates and significant increases in the cost of living across Victoria.
Small Business Australia CEO Bill Lang expressed his disbelief, deeming the ruling "unfathomable."
He called upon MPs to forgo their pay hike, considering the dire financial state of many Victorian small businesses.
Lang emphasised the need for transparency, suggesting that if politicians were to make a charitable donation, they should disclose which deserving organisations would receive the funds.
Karen Batt, secretary of the Community and Public Sector Union, criticised the pay rise, highlighting the disparity between politicians and government workers. She argued that a more equitable wages policy was necessary, given that politicians were receiving higher increases than public sector employees.
Danny Hill, the union leader for ambulances, also questioned the rationale behind the pay increase.
In a tweet, he pointed out that public sector workers were being offered a 3 percent increase, with an additional 0.5 percent for productivity enhancements.
Hill wondered what contributions politicians had made to warrant a 3.5 percent rise and suggested that paramedics could take on extra responsibilities during their already demanding shifts.
This is not the first time politicians have faced calls to forego their pay increase. In 2020, during the pandemic, MPs were granted an 11.8 percent raise, while businesses were closing down and individuals were struggling to make ends meet.
In response, the state government mandated that all MPs donate their salary increases to charities supporting COVID-19 relief efforts.
When questioned about their intentions regarding the latest pay rise, both the Andrews Government and the opposition, along with the Greens, refused to commit to donating the funds immediately.
The independent remuneration tribunal, established in 2019, determines salary adjustments for MPs. While the tribunal operates independently, its decisions can be overridden by passing legislation through parliament.
An Andrews Government spokesperson defended the process, stating:
"We acted years ago to make sure politicians weren't deciding their salaries, establishing the independent remuneration tribunal. Salary adjustments for MPs are decided by the independent tribunal."
However, the refusal of MPs to donate their pay rise has left many Victorians dissatisfied and questioning the fairness of the decision.