David Seymour calls on Government to explain ministerial pay cut plan following veto to proposed Bill

David Seymour.
David Seymour. Photo credit: Getty Images

ACT Party leader David Seymour is calling on the Government to explain how it plans to cut politicians' pay after it vetoed a Bill that would reduce the salaries for all MPs for a six-month period.

Seymour introduced the Bill on Tuesday during Parliament's first sitting after New Zealand went into lockdown. Had it been passed and made law, it would have cut the salaries of all MPs by 20 percent.

His proposed Bill followed an announcement by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern earlier in April where she said all ministers and public sector bosses would take a 20 percent pay cut amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the time, Ardern said she informed Opposition leader Simon Bridges about the planned pay cut, and the National Party leader later confirmed on Twitter that he would take a 20 percent cut too.

Seymour says the Government should explain its plan for cutting politicians' pay since it's "refusing to debate" his proposed legislation.

"We could have debated the first reading [of this Bill] this Thursday, sent it to the Epidemic Response Committee for three days, and passed the bill through its remaining stages late next week. Government MPs refused to allow this to occur."

He agrees with Ardern's "sentiment" to reduce ministerial salaries for six months, but believes it should have gone further to include all MPs.

"The real issue is this: the Government said they would do it. They've since discovered they needed legislation but don't have any," Seymour says.

"I would have thought the Prime Minister promising to do something fairly simple then having no plan to do it would be a big deal. She was widely praised for cutting MPs' pay."

Ardern said during her announcement of the pay cut that work was underway to enact it via the Remuneration Authority and legislation.

Taxpayers' Union spokesperson Jordan Williams says the MPs who vetoed the Bill "should be ashamed" they are "insulating their pay packets" during the pandemic.

"The veto also undermines the spirit of the Prime Minister's earlier move to cut ministerial salaries. Why should backbench MPs with few essential responsibilities be protected? Most of them have been sitting at home like the rest of us, but only they are insisting on full pay," he says.

When Seymour tried to introduce his legislation on Tuesday and the question "is there any objection to that" was put to the House of Representatives, Finance Minister Grant Robertson is heard saying "yes there is".

Newshub has contacted Robertson for comment.

Ardern received global praise for announcing the pay cut for ministers, which included an article on Forbes saying she's displaying "exceptional empathy" for New Zealanders during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Since the very beginning, she's taken swift action and has demonstrated an emotional intelligence that spans far beyond the usual administrative know-how," it says.

The Government has previously made changes to the way MPs are paid. 

In August 2019, the Government repealed a John Key-era law tying MPs' salaries to the average wage to restore independence to the Remuneration Authority.

It followed the Prime Minister freezing MPs' salaries in August 2018, after the Remuneration Authority planned to give MPs a three percent pay increase.