Coronavirus: Cutting MPs' pay appropriate way for House of Representatives to reflect Kiwis’ struggle - David Seymour

Cutting MPs' pay is a symbolic action which shows the same economic conditions apply to the House of Representatives as the people they represent, Act's leader says. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Wednesday that ministers along with public service chief executives would take a 20 percent pay cut for the next six months. While she recognised the money saved through the cut won't "shift the Government's fiscal position", it acknowledged the economic chaos COVID-19 has unleashed on Kiwis, resulting in many having their salaries cut and some losing their jobs. 

But Act leader David Seymour believes all MPs should have their pay cut.

"It is partly symbolism. But I don't think there is anything wrong with that. We are technically called a House of Representatives, and when you have got people in the private sector doing it, people in the private sector losing their jobs, it is only right that the same should apply to the representatives in Parliament as well," he told The AM Show on Thursday morning.

"While MPs' pay doesn't make a huge impact when you have got Treasury talking about figures like $60 billion, what it does do is it allows Ministers to say to those highly paid civil servants in Wellington and elsewhere 'it's time for the public sector to fall in line with the private sector'.

"It's not fair that Parliament or anyone else in the higher end of the public service should be unaffected just because their employer can literally print money."

Seymour, who has been advocating for the pay cut for weeks, says he's received advice that a law change would be required for it to happen. He's subsequently had a Bill drafted that he will table when Parliament resumes after the lockdown is lifted. That's currently meant to be on April 28.

"If in the meantime, we come up with an easier way to do it, then, of course, we will just do that. The point is I have it ready to go if needed," he said.

Seymour has also organised a petition calling on Parliament to support the Bill.

Retired University of Auckland law school professor Bill Hodge said the move by the Prime Minister on Wednesday was "tremendous" and said it would also help improve her image with Kiwis ahead of the election in September. 

"Everyone else in New Zealand is sacrificing, including people in the media, casual workers, productive workers, so I think it's a very good public relations move, but in substance, I think it's brilliant. If it inspires others to volunteer, like university lecturers, I think that would be even better," he told Newshub.

"I think it shows they are suffering along with all other New Zealanders and willing to take a hit along with all other New Zealanders. It is good to be in the same boat instead than saying 'we are up here and everyone has to suffer while we look after you'."

But he said politicians' allowances should also be cut as they often "earn more money in allowances than in salaries".

The salary cut, which has also been taken up by the Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges, will see Ardern take a cut of $47,104. 

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters' new salary for 2020 will be reduced from $334,734 to $302,261, saving $33,473. Cabinet ministers' salaries for 2019 will drop from $296,007 to $269,107 while ministers outside Cabinet will have their salaries drop from $249,839 to $224,856.

Ardern said on Wednesday the cut is currently only "in principle" with work underway to enact it via the Remuneration Authority and legislation.