Love them or hate them, politicians are a part of our lives that, like death and taxes, we cannot escape. We often hear critics say that politicians could never earn the money they make in the “real world”. But exactly how much money is that? Are politicians well paid? Let’s take a look at whether a career in politics can fatten the bank balance.
Federal parliamentary salaries start with a base rate of $203,020.
Special positions, such as cabinet ministers, Treasurer and parliamentary secretaries are paid some multiple of that.
For example the top job in federal politics is the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister gets an additional salary of 160% of the base salary. That brings the PM’s salary to a few dollars shy of $528,000.
The government publishes a document that details exactly what those “loadings” on the base salary are.
- Prime Minister: 160.0%
- Deputy Prime Minister: 105.0%
- Treasurer: 87.5%
- Leader of the Government in the Senate: 87.5%
- Leader of the House: 75.0%
- Other Minister in Cabinet who is also Manager of Government Business in the Senate: 75.0%
- Other Ministers in Cabinet: 72.5%
- Other Minister who is also Manager of Government Business in the Senate: 67.5%
- Other Ministers: 57.5%
- Parliamentary Secretary who is also Manager of Government Business in the Senate: 35.0%
- Parliamentary Secretaries: 25.0%
There’s a similar hierarchy for the opposition and other parliamentary roles as well. It’s interesting that the Leader of the Opposition is paid slightly less that the federal treasurer.
- Leader of the Opposition: 85.0%
- President of the Senate: 75.0%
- Speaker of the House of Representatives: 75.0%
- Deputy Leader of the Opposition: 57.5%
- Leader of the Opposition in the Senate: 57.5%
- Leader of a recognised party of more than 10 members of parliament, other than a party whose Leader is the Prime Minister or the Leader of the Opposition: 45.0%
- Shadow Minister: 25.0%
What that all means is that parliament only needs to agree on a new base salary and all the other salaries are calculated as a multiple of that. Those numbers don’t include travel, accomodation, electoral allowances and other extras that are audited.
Each state and territory sets out it’s own salary scheme for its politicians. But they use a similar system to the federal parliament with a base salary that is boosted through extras depending on specific offices.
The Queensland parliament has a similar system of extras with a detailed explanation of other allowances in their most recent Remuneration Tribunal determination.
Back in 2013, the parliament of Victoria passed a law that set the base salary for all state politicians at $140,973 but indexed to increase each year based on official inflation rates. That meant that earlier this year, state politicians in Victoria scored a nifty 5.3% wage rise but the increase was far smaller the year before. Following some scandals around abuse of parliamentary allowances, the Premier announced an overhaul of allowances last year.
In Western Australia, state politicians have a base remuneration of $156,536 which, like most other states, is loaded with extras depending on specific roles.
Tasmania has the lowest paid politicians in the country. With a base rate of “just” $133,560, the Premier is paid a total of $248,560 plus other allowances.
There’s been a lot of controversy in South Australia with state MPs picking up some substantial pay rises this year although that’s balanced by reductions in a bunch of other allowances. But other details are a little thin on the ground. The base salary is $187,000 although where that’s clearly stated, along with other loading is difficult to find on the Remuneration Tribunal of South Australia.