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Every pollie wins a prize

By Scott Prasser - posted Friday, 2 January 2009

It was great to hear Premier Anna Bligh announce that in these hard times, proposed salary increases of Queensland's 89 politicians were being frozen and that the public service was being asked to find “savings”.

Why stop there, Premier? How about slicing Queensland's bloated executive government? Since the 2006 state election, when premier Peter Beattie increased the number of parliamentary secretaries from eight to 11 (combined with 18 Cabinet ministers), Queensland has had 29 members serving in executive government roles.

That means that about one in three - 32 per cent - of our state parliamentarians hold executive government positions.


During the 1960s, the comparable figure was 16 per cent, and it was 20 per cent for most of the 1980s.

Queensland has more politicians as a proportion of its elected representatives serving in executive government than at any time in its history. More than that, Queensland has a greater proportion of its parliamentarians in executive government than any other state or even the Federal Government. Only the Northern Territory has more, and there are special reasons for that.

Comparable figures to Queensland's 32 per cent of parliamentarians in executive government are: Victoria 27 per cent; New South Wales 23.7 per cent; Western Australia 24 percent, South Australia 24.6 per cent; and Tasmania 25 per cent. In Canberra, under the Howard and Rudd governments, the proportion has remained at 18.5 per cent.

Indeed, Queensland with 29 ministers and parliamentary secretaries, has only three fewer members in executive government roles than NSW - a state that has about two million people more than Queensland.

There are several serious implications of this growth in executive government.

It costs the taxpayers more in higher wages. Ministers earn $78,000 more over their base backbench salary. Parliamentary secretaries receive an additional $22,000.


There are also the extra costs for staff, offices and cars.

A larger executive government means fewer backbenchers to scrutinise government, yet with more executive government members there is additional activity to assess.

A larger executive government allows a premier to practise more patronage for party members. In Queensland, almost 50 per cent of the present Government members hold executive positions. Almost everyone in government gets an executive government prize these days.

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First published in The Courier-Mail on December 15, 2008.

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About the Author

Dr Scott Prasser has worked on senior policy and research roles in federal and state governments. His recent publications include:Royal Commissions and Public Inquiries in Australia (2021); The Whitlam Era with David Clune (2022) and the edited New directions in royal commission and public inquiries: Do we need them?. His forthcoming publication is The Art of Opposition reviewing oppositions across Australia and internationally. .

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