Key gives judges a pay hint

By Claire Trevett

Prime Minister John Key expects other high-earners paid from the public purse to follow MPs and the Governor-General by asking not to get a pay rise this year.

Parliament yesterday unanimously agreed to ask the Remuneration Authority not to lift MPs' wages when they are reviewed in the middle of this year.

The Remuneration Authority is responsible for setting the salaries of MPs, judges, local body councillors and public sector bosses.

"I'm sure judges and the like will take a similar view and I'm sure the Remuneration Authority, in reaching their conclusion, will take into consideration that this is a time of restraint and it's important that we, as well-paid New Zealanders, show leadership," said Mr Key

The current determination of judges' salaries runs out in September. A spokesman for the Courts said the judiciary would not comment.

The Governor-General, Anand Satyanand, wrote to the authority in January to request a zero increase next time his $187,000 salary was reviewed.

He and Mr Key had also agreed the Governor-General's allowance of about $177,000 would not be increased in accordance with the consumers price index as in previous years.

The Remuneration Authority is required by law to act independently of political influence.

Mr Key did not believe making strong public calls for a zero pay rise amounted to political influence.

"They can understand the conditions we face. This is a recession which will envelope all of New Zealand and I think they will take that into consideration."

He said the MPs' call was "symbolic", but he would be "very surprised if the Remuneration Authority was to go ahead without considering what's happening here".

Remuneration Authority chairman David Oughton said the review of MPs' salaries would begin in July. While it could not specifically take into account the current economic climate when reviewing pay levels, it was obliged to consider any submissions from those receiving the pay. It also had to consider fairness to taxpayers.

Asked if it was unhelpful for the body's political independence that submissions were being made publicly, he said it was their choice. He acknowledged it was an unusual situation.

Labour also supported the motion. Leader Phil Goff had initially called for a law change to require the authority to take into account the current economic climate when deciding on salary levels.

Mr Key said he was satisfied such a move was unnecessary to get the temporary effect that was wanted.

- NZ Herald

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