Pollies’ pay cut proposed

Councillor Paul Belcher

A LOCAL councillor’s proposal for elected officials to take a pay cut during the coronavirus pandemic was broadcast on multiple commercial radio stations on Friday.

“In this troubled time I am putting forward the suggestion that elected members of Local Government and State and Federal parliaments, and executive managers and general managers – excluding the premiers, health ministers and prime minister – should take a pay cut to help with the COVID-19,” Derwent Valley councillor Paul Belcher said in a media statement earlier in the week.

“We see lots of people being forced out of their jobs with no options as businesses across the country are closing down or cutting hours to save what money they have to survive,” the councillor and small business owner said.

“We have seen big and small businesses managers, sporting professionals and racing industry participants all taking cuts and I think we all should play a part in managing this crisis. For most elected members, the workload would be less [now] as they are working from home, or the usual demands are most likely not there after the new lockdown regulations have come in.

“I ask all elected members to think of, and help out, those that elected us to represent them. Let’s do our part,” Cr Belcher said.

On Friday morning Cr Belcher was a guest on the Tasmania Talks program, broadcast across the north and west of the state on LA-FM, 7AD, 7BU, 7XS and 7SD, and online. Host Aaron Stevens noted that prime minister Scott Morrison had rejected talk of any pay cuts for federal MPS, saying they were working longer hours due to the coronavirus challenges.

“Meanwhile, some state leaders have put a pay increase on hold or offered to donate some of those pay rises to charities, but no mention of pay cuts,” Stevens said. “Derwent Valley councillor Paul Belcher is the exception. He’s written a letter targeting local government and state and federal parliaments calling for many – there are some exclusions – to take pay cuts.”

Cr Belcher said the constraints of the coronavirus pandemic meant that many local, state and federal politicians might not be as active as usual. “There are some, premiers and health ministers, which I had excluded, that are actually working around the clock, and I feel for them – they look absolutely tired when you see them doing media statements. But I just think that the councillors, mayors, deputy mayors, are probably not as functional as they would have been three weeks ago.”

Cr Belcher said he had hoped to put his proposal to last week’s Derwent Valley Council special meeting dealing with a community COVID-19 community support package. “But obviously the meeting got canned, so I couldn’t put that forward. Whether that got supported was another thing,” he said.

“I’m not pressuring the premier, I think that the premier’s done a quite a good job. He’s taken over the reins at the wrong time, really, and he’s been put under pressure and I think that he thought a great job … and we all know that the health minister’s job is probably one of the worst jobs in ministry and I think here in Tasmania, Sarah Courtney has stepped up and I think she’s done a great job.”

The fixed allowance paid to Derwent Valley councillors totals $148,748 per year. Each councillor receives $12,955 for the year, with the deputy mayor receiving an additional $12,400, and the mayor receiving an extra $32,388. A 20% cut would more than cover the cost of the community grants program ($20,000) which the acting general manager has proposed diverting to support small businesses and not-for-profit organisations.

Listen to the Tasmania Talks interview here.

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