Feb 15, 2008

Making Ends Meet

I've been watching with some interest the reaction to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's moves to freeze parliamentarians' wages until mid-2009.

Big business has apparently rejected Mr Rudd's call for wage restraint for executive salaries, claiming they have to offer lucrative deals to attract the best and brightest candidates. A fair point, one might say. The same argument could be made for parlimentarians - something along the lines of "pay peanuts, get monkeys".

What I'm looking for, though, is a definition of the term "peanuts". Because in my world, the base MP salary of $127,060 really doesn't qualify as "peanuts". In my world, $127,060 is "honey-roasted macadamias picked covered in gold leaf and served in a Faberge egg".

But Tony Abbott, always a man of the people (providing, of course, those people are BMW-driving, chai latte-sipping, multiple home-owning, stockmarket-investing, first class-travelling, Prada-wearing yuppie tossbags), has jumped into action. From AAP:

Former minister TONY ABBOTT says politicians are struggling to make ends meet on a backbencher's base salary of 127 thousand and 60 dollars.

Mr ABBOTT says they have all the normal expenses that families have .. and the only source of meeting those expenses is their parliamentary salaries.

I'm sorry, but what the fuck?!?!?

Now let's take into account rising inflation rates coupled with gigantic mortgages for multi-million dollar homes, and throw in private education expenses and other childcare costs. Sure, that's going to dent the pocket. But let's also take into account that MPs travel and many other expenses are covered by the taxpayer. Many will have leased Commonwealth cars, with petrol paid for by you and me. Fair enough - we're their boss, so we pay their expenses. But I'm sorry, my heart remains firmly un-bleeding for these people.

If you choose to enter politics, you should choose to do so with more than just financial benefit in mind. You're choosing to try to make a difference in people's lives. You should be well aware with any job of what your salary will be, and whether or not it meets your expectations and funds your lifestyle. If it doesn't - then just fuck off. Don't enter parliament claiming to be my representative then whinge about $127,060 a year.

I work in commercial radio journalism, which I'm sorry to say, is NEVER going to pay well. Other people my age are earning $60k, $80k easy in their public service and white-collar private sector jobs. Tradies earn bucketloads more. A guy who cleans cars at my brother's workplace earns more than me. My two degrees count for virtually nothing pay-wise (well, one is a BA, so I'll take the jokes on that).

So yeah, I get paid pretty shit wages. Sure, I don't have kids to add extra expenses (and I can tell you, there's a really good case of putting them off for much longer if not forever), but I still have increasing mortgage repayments to make and higher costs of petrol and groceries. Yeah, you're right. I probably could go and get another job that pays much better. I choose to stay where I am because I actually really do love the industry, and want to further my experience in it. So I can cope with all this. However, it's not all about me.

What about other individuals, perhaps with kids, perhaps without, who can't? How should they feel when their elected representatives whinge about not getting another $6000 this year? Poor little Hugo's grammar school education might have to go on the credit card. Oh gosh! What about little Brayden or Jayden, who has to wear cheap nasty shoes this term because nice ones that are good for your feet are just too damn expensive. And yes I mock the stupid names people give their children, but I will never mock their financial situation.

Take your $127,060 and be god-damned grateful, parliamentarians. And you, white-collar folk - my mortgage repayments total half my wages each fortnight. Do yours? Are you on $70 000 a year or more? I know rents are high and mortgages difficult. I know you work hard for your money and you deserve it. I know you do, and I'm happy for you to earn mega-bucks. It shows personal determination, of some sort. But it's your choice to live where and how you do. So DON'T fricking complain to me if you're "doing it tough". Perhaps one one less gold-plated backscratcher, or nubile wench serving you truffles.

It's time we brought money out of the shadows and discussed it more. Stuff this attitude of "I earn enough" or "I'm comfortable". We're all still stuck in such a medieval Christian mindset when it comes to cold hard cash. It's supposed to be evil to desire it. But you know what? You fucking NEED it. You NEED it to LIVE. How can you make a freaking difference in the world, or to someone you love, if you can't afford to keep pace with prices? OK, it's evil. But it's a necessary one. Let's get it more out in the open, and confess our sin of coveting, and learn to be open about the flashing dollar signs in our eyes.

Now having said all that - can someone lend me $50?


  1. What the fuck indeed. I am gnashing teeth after having another mag tell me just today "Would love to have you on board but we have no budget for freelancers. You wanna do it for the love and the glory?"

    Wonder what the bank would say if I asked if I could top up the mortgage with a bit of love and glory instead of dollars.

    Nice rant. (Yours, I mean).

  2. Hey Quick,

    Thanks for commenting. You freelance write as well? Excellent, I love to hear from others in the game - which I'm quite new too.

    I've been amazed at the number of magazines that DON'T pay writers. It's one thing to want to build up a portfolio and get your name in print, but after a while it's just being used. And I'm not talking local cat magazines either - big name mags that you'd think have money

    Apparently Australian freelance rates are incredibly low too. The standard here is 50c a word, whereas in America it's 80c, with some mags paying $1 a word.

    Why are rates of pay for journos and writers so LOW? We should take up arms, Quick, I reckon!

  3. I concur, I was very disgusted to read a news article with the quote of "our mortgage is rising too".... bah! I don't even get a CPI increase as a matter of course from year to year let alone an ABOVE CPI increase, that they will miss out on ONCE.

    I'm happy enough with the work/lifestyle balance choices I've made but if you took our COMBINED annual income and doubled it, you still wouldn't be at the base pollie salary... but we have a high enough income that we get virtually NO government assistance other than the rebates everyone is entitled to, let alone subsidised travel, food, entertainment, or anything close to their super packages....

    Cry me a fricken river Tony Abbott

  4. Hey CCL,

    Totally understand your POV - I don't get a guaranteed pay rise every year either. And I don't know the last time the base wage for radio journos was significantly increased.

  5. The "Mad Monk" has had a brain fart!!!!

    What on earth was he thinking??? OH, thats right, the same thing that the rest of the Libs were thinking when they decided to politicise a remarkable day in Australias history.

    All the MM has done is perpetuate the belief that politicians are bereft of any understanding about the difficulties the we, the great unwashed face.

    Yes, I get paid less than the average wage in Australia (shit, a lot of people get paid motza compared to me if the avaerage wage is $70K+ per year), and through enterprise bargaining, I getan increase every year, but I have to show collective improvement in productivity to do it....

    Collectively, our houshold is on about $100k per year (including overtime and the value of a company car for the goddess), and we have a mortgage, (not a huge one), and we have a difficult time mnaking ends meet sometimes.

    Just the thought of $138K per year... oHhhh be still my beating heart. Maybe I could get the premium organic lamb, or geee, maybe I could afford to do some more study, or ......

    Tony Abbott, you have once again stood on your dick with golf spikes on, and demonstrated that you truely do live in a rarified environment of self importance.

    And the sad thing is, that I still believe that we do not pay our politicians enough... All you jhave to do is see the diaries of a couple of them and see that they do not have a life at home....

    I hear them (Abbott and co.) call for performance based pay for teachers!!! Teachers, the most undervalued profession around (well, apart form Ambo's and firies) and they cop this crap from the likes of the Mad Monk, and "Smirking Boy" Costello.

    Waddabout perfomance based pay for elected officials... COntracts of performance and behaviour, with penalty clauses for acts of supreme dumeness....

    Oh, and a bonus for saying "Sorry" of at the very least having the decency to be there and show some solidarity to Australia as a whole... (MPs Wilson Tuckey, Don Randall and Dennis Jensen, NSW MP Alby Schultz, Sen. Concietta Fierravanti-Wells, and Sophie Mirabella, may you have your pay docked by 90% for the remainder of your life)

    OK, so I got off topic, but when gobsmaked by fools, I sometime havbe to fill the void with ramblings of social justice and diatribe over the reprehensible acts of what appear to be, fools.

    I hereby nominate the "Mad Monk" as the Parliamentary Jester... Make me laugh Tony- Not gasp in amazement!

  6. Nat, WTF indeed!

    Here in NSW, the state government has told their employees (except the politicians, presumably) that they can only count on a 2.5% wage rise when their Enterprise Lack of Bargaining Agreement comes up. Anything beyond 2.5% has to be justified by productivity improvements. However, inflation is running at 3 point something per cent and rising. And that's not counting rising interest rates etc.

    I know many people who would be happy with anywhere near $127k or half of that. Many MP's have lost touch with how the people they are representing are struggling. And what happens when 2009 (ie next year) comes and the wage freeze is over? Will they get what they should have got this year and next year as well?

    Pay rates aren't everything but as you say, Nat, people need cold hard cash to be able to survive. While you can say that you enjoy your job, you'd probably enjoy it more if you can convert that enjoyment into cash. But what value do you put on enjoyment?

  7. I absolutely agree that Abbott is a cocknostril. He is easily the one politician that I actually hate, with a deep and abiding loathing. Other Liberals I just disagree with, but Abbott actually makes my guts twist any time he appears on TV.

    But to play devil's advocate for a second, what actual effect will taking a pay cut have on the economy? Surely the hundreds of thousands of wages not getting a pay cut would continue to drive it upwards? I'm all for symbolic actions, but it seems like there's no actual plan behind this one. Just a show of solidarity, with no plan for actually fixing the problem.

  8. Happy with half of that? Gees Louise, I'd be happy with a QUARTER of that...two kids and all.

    Mind you, it is my choice to take the lowly paid stay-at-home-mum/comedy combo, neither of which is particularly lucrative yet ;-) but even so, hearing anybody, ANYBODY bitch and moan about that level of income...it doesn't even make me angry actually, it just makes me roll my eyes and wonder how the hell somebody gets so far out of touch.

  9. Hey guys!

    Again, thanks for all the comments.

    It makes me think though - do my wealthy friends have justification in saying "It's your fault - you could get a better job if you want more money!"

    I'm not saying they HAVE told me that, just pondering whether they'd have good reason to do so.

    I think for a few people, they're lucky to work in a job that they're both passionate about and that pays absurdly well.

    For most of us, there's always going to be the choice of choosing between pay and passion, or trading off between the two somehow. A Devil's Bargain, to be sure!

    For some people though, they're never going to get close to $127k a year, no matter how hard they work.

    I guess that's my main bitterness about politicians - as everyone else here has mentioned - being out of touch.

    I don't begrudge the pollies their $127k. I just want them to appreciate it!