David Seymour wants MP pay cuts made compulsory, citing 'offensive' voluntary option

ACT leader David Seymour wants MP pay cuts to be made compulsory, citing what he described as an "offensive" clause in the legislation making it optional. 

"A voluntary measure is offensive to workers who have had no choice but to take a pay cut or have lost their job," Seymour said. "If the Government won't make it compulsory, they must make it transparent."

During the COVID-19 lockdown, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said ministers and senior officials would take a six-month 20 percent pay cut in solidarity with struggling businesses, and National leader Simon Bridges chose to do it too. 

State Services Minister Chis Hipkins revealed details earlier this week of the legislation that would enable the Remuneration Authority to make temporary reductions to the salaries of elected politicians and senior public officials.

Their pay is set according to the Remuneration Authority Act 1977, so it had to be amended so the temporary pay cuts could be applied. 

Seymour is outraged that the legislation put forward makes the pay cuts optional - not compulsory. He's also fuming that the law was passed on Friday "avoiding any debate over whether to make them compulsory". 

Seymour proposed two amendments - one that would make the pay cuts compulsory and another that would have required the authority to publish information on which MPs opted to take pay cuts. 

But he said National, Labour, the Greens and New Zealand First "all said they would rather go home early" than debate the amendments.

"MPs from both sides of the House agreed that Parliament should skip debate on the first and second readings and the committee stage, meaning there was no chance to propose any changes to the Bill."

Labour MP Damien O'Connor said the Government's position was that the authority should have the ability to consider each circumstance of the person having their pay cut. 

"This approach allows the authority to consider individual circumstances in each case, for example, whether that person has already made an equivalent donation to a charity. It also preserves the principle that the authority determines what is paid."

Seymour said the Prime Minister was "happy to accept adulation from global media for her promise to take a pay cut" but it's "clear there was no plan to actually achieve it". 

The Prime Minister will be taking a six-month pay cut along with other ministers, such as Finance Minister Grant Robertson, and parliamentary undersecretaries, such as Green MP Jan Logie. 

A host of other senior executives will take a cut too, including the Ombudsman, the Privacy Commissioner, the Police Commissioner, and the Solicitor-General. 

You can read more about how much Jacinda Ardern will earn after her pay cut here.  

The Government has already 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 3 percent pay increase.