Health Minister Marlon Penn has said he would agree to remove a section of a controversial piece of legislation that helped to regularise the pension packages of lawmakers if he becomes Premier of the territory.
The Retiring Allowances (Legislative Services) Amendment Act, 2021 which is sometimes referred to by members of the public as the ‘greedy bill’, was met with vocal opposition by a group of residents at the time, but this did not force any changes to the law.
“I would remove the [Retiring Allowances] Act,” Penn said on the Talking Points show recently. “I’ve said this publicly before when it was passed — my concern at the time we were discussing and negotiating the retirement Act, was the way that the pension was being calculated.”
Penn said pensions were previously calculated on the basis of the base salary of legislators and not on their entire package.
“For instance, you had [House of Assembly] members. The average salary of a member was $36,000 base — that’s the member’s salary. So members were getting pensions based on that $36,000, not based on all the other allowances and things they were getting [in] their package. But they were being taxed on it,” he said.
Penn argued that if someone is being taxed on something, then this should be calculated as part of their pension.
“That was the component [of the bill] on which we did a review. We did an assessment with a retired politician and I think a judge was part of the team in terms of what would be a reasonable pension or salary for an elected official in the territory,” he said.
I’m not a hypocrite
Penn, in the meantime, said he requested a division of votes (confirmation of a voice vote) in the House of Assembly (HOA) on the issue of how one-term politicians were getting paid their pensions, but was voted down in this request at the time.
“The principle of the bill I supported, but all the other things I did not support,” Penn explained. “I’m not a hypocrite, if I’m going to vote for something, I’m going to vote for it.”
When the legislation was changed two years ago, then-Premier Andrew Fahie
said legislators’ retirement benefits at that time did not take their allowances into consideration and he said this is what the law aimed to address.
At the time, Fahie
made reference to a legislative adjustment for the retirement packages of judges, and said this news drew little media attention.
“The minute the politicians or elected officials’ retirement adjustment hits, then it’s that they’re taking care of themselves – its that they don’t care about people,” Fahie
argued at the time.