Prime Minister Christopher Luxon faces questions over whether MPs should get pay rises amid public service cuts

Do you deserve a pay rise? It's a simple enough question but one Prime Minister Christopher Luxon struggled to answer on AM on Tuesday.  

"Those are decisions for an independent remuneration authority and again it's important Prime Ministers and MPs aren't involved with setting their pay," Luxon told AM co-host Lloyd Burr, echoing his comments from Monday.  

When Burr asked whether he has any plans to freeze MPs' pay given the Government's widespread cost-cutting measure, he gave a similarly non-committal answer.  

"Again, we've got an independent remuneration authority. They need to go through a process. It's designed in way so you don't need to have a Prime Minister or an MP commenting on or setting their own pay. Let's see what the remuneration authority does – they're working through that now," Luxon said.  

It's the same answer he gave at the post-Cabinet press conference on Monday, repeatedly distancing himself from any decisions over politicians' salaries.  

The independent remuneration authority sets the pay for key public officials however the Prime Minister does have a say. After every election, the authority will reassess MPs' pay and recommend changes if it sees fit. The Prime Minister can then decide whether to implement them or not.  

In 2018, then Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern froze MPs' pay saying the proposed increases were out of step with the wider workforce and adding to the rich-poor divide. 

The move received cross-party support including from National, which was in Opposition at the time. It came after the independent remuneration authority recommended increasing MPs' pay by 3 percent during a year when there was widespread strike action from the likes of teachers, nurses and other workers.  

The remuneration authority is just weeks away from releasing its latest recommendations, however, Luxon is under increasing pressure to freeze pay due to his government's widespread cost-cutting measures.  

Government departments have already started laying off workers to meet the ministerial mandate to cut costs by between 6.5 to 7.5 percent.  

Luxon and Opposition leader Chris Hipkins have both said whether MPs get pay rises is up to the authority. But the Green Party's co-leadership said the prospect of pay rises for MPs while so many households struggle with financial hardship is a "bitter pill to swallow for many".  

Currently, New Zealand's Prime Minister receives a salary of $471,049 a year and perks. Meanwhile, Cabinet Ministers and the Leader of the Opposition get $296,007 and MPs without leadership positions within their party or on select committees get $163,961 a year. 

The average annual wage in New Zealand is around $70,000 a year.  

It's not the first time the Prime Minister has faced pressure over his pay. Earlier this year Luxon was widely criticised for accepting a $52,000 accommodation allowance to live in his own mortgage-free home.  

Despite initially saying it was "an entitlement" and he was "well within the rules" to claim it, after significant public backlash Luxon said he would pay it back because it was "becoming a distraction".