Second Reading

Ms CHAPMAN (Bragg—Deputy Leader of the Opposition) (12:00): I rise to speak on the Constitution (Governor's Salary) Amendment Bill 2015. This is a bill which, members might like to note, is particularly important. One, it is amending our state's Constitution Act 1936, and that does not happen very often. On this occasion, it is to make provision for how in the future our Governor's remuneration will be determined, and that is also a very important matter. It is a bill amending the act to refer the matter of the Governor's remuneration to the Remuneration Tribunal. It is claimed that this would allow the Governor, like other significant officeholders such as members of the judiciary and, indeed, ourselves as members of the legislature, to have the benefit of establishing appropriate salary arrangements, including superannuation and salary sacrificing.

The government has submitted to us, in seeking our favourable consideration of this, which I indicate will be forthcoming, that the current legislative framework and recent tax rulings limit the ability of the Governor to enter into those arrangements and, therefore, places the Governor at a disadvantage. The exact salary superannuation and salary sacrificing arrangements that our Governor currently enjoys, I do not know the detail of, and I will seek a little elaboration on that. It is hard to imagine what areas of salary sacrificing may apply to the Governor. It may be some accommodation arrangements, costs that are relevant to his office that are not already provided for in the provisions by the government and which does need to have provision. Nor am I familiar with what recent tax rulings in particular have had a negative impact on the capacity for our Governor to receive and organise his financial arrangements as would be reasonable.

It is fair to say that obviously if one is employed in the private sector there are certain laws and arrangements, including awards, which give protection to people in employment in that situation. We have here in the parliament, as does the judiciary, a tribunal which has a standing charter to determine those matters on our behalf and provide some independence. Public servants who are in the Public Service similarly, with their employer, the government, have the protection of a legal framework together with enterprise bargain agreements, and the like. So, there is no reason why the Governor should not have access to and the opportunity to present a submission to an independent body for the purposes of his or her (in the future) arrangements.

The recent publicity surrounding the announcement that the remuneration would be reviewed by a tribunal under this proposed law suggested that there may be a possible pay rise of up to $100,000. That media report appears to relate to the fact that the bill proposes that there will be no capacity for the tribunal to reduce whatever the current entitlements of the Governor are, and that is specifically in the bill.

The author of the article in The Advertiser then goes on to suggest that, compared to other states, the likely remuneration, if it is to be comparable with other state governors, could result in a $100,000 pay rise. Well, we are yet to see what the tribunal says about the matter after the passage of this bill.

It is fair to note, and I think appropriate in giving our support to this, that only Queensland otherwise in Australia sets its governor's wages at a proportion of judges'. Whether they propose similar amendment will, of course, be up to their legislature, but we agree here that there is no particular reason why that attachment should continue. It should be noted that judges' remuneration has been frozen since 2013.

The Premier has placed on the public record, at least in this article, that he did not consider that that would occur. I am not quite sure how he would be able to say that, given that the Remuneration Tribunal will have to independently assess what is presented to them. He may have been privy to a draft submission that has been prepared for or on behalf of the Governor, or by the Governor, as to what he will be asking for once this legislation passes, but the Premier has presented to the public, via The Advertiser at least, an indication that he did not believe that would occur.

As I say, I am entirely at a loss as to what he has relied on there. The explanation for that I think should be made available to the parliament. I for one would be wanting some reassurance that, consistent with the intent of this bill—that is, that the Governor will enjoy absolute independence in the assessment of his or her future provision from government, including the Premier—the Premier has not in some way been privy to what is being proposed.

Finally, I understand that the current Governor has indicated, at least through his representative, that he agrees with the bill, and I am taking from that that he is supportive of the concept of independent assessment. I would have to say that it is not usual that we change the constitution, as I said before, but it is also not usual, if we are dealing with our senior representative on behalf of Her Majesty here, that you just ring up the Governor and say, 'Well, you're the stakeholder here in this, we need to have your view as to whether you support or otherwise this legislation or want any amendments.' I would not diminish the dignity of his office by doing so, but I understand that there has been an indication of support from him.

The other matter I just briefly raise is: is this a hybrid bill? I think this needs to be answered, and I think we need to have some clarification on that. From our side, we are satisfied that it is reasonable that this model be introduced for future assessment of remuneration but, under our hybrid obligations, where a bill has the effect of making provision for an individual or an entity, as distinct from applying to persons at large or a group at large, then usually we refer it for committee and then, of course, the committee's recommendation comes back to the parliament.

We have those rules to ensure that there is no opportunity for the legislature, particularly using the force of government numbers, to either exploit or punish an individual or indeed to give privilege or benefit to an individual or to an entity. So I do not think I need to go into the reasons why we have hybrid bills, other than to say there is only one person who gets the benefit of this, and it is a replacement, so I would like that clarified before we conclude our deliberations today.