Australian PM Turnbull draws flak for $534k salary, while PM Lee says $2.4 million pay “fair and realistic”

Australian PM, Malcolm Turnbull (L) and Singapore PM, Lee Hsien Loong (R)

The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) ran a story on Sunday (27 May) after a Remuneration Tribunal gave Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull a 2% pay increment.

With a new base annual salary of AUD$527,854 (SGD$534,584) a year, the SMH said that Turnbull is the “highest-paid politician in the OECD earning up to 10 times the average wage – the second-highest disparity with the majority of workers in the developed world”.

The ratio of the Prime Minister’s salary to that of the average worker for Mr. Turnbull is 10.14, slightly below Mexican President’s Enrique Pena Nieto ratio of 10.8 times.

In Australia, salaries of political holders are determined by an independent Remuneration Tribunal which takes a “conservative approach”.

Like Singapore, the tribunal said that it is important that remuneration be “maintained at appropriate levels over the longer term to attract and retain people of the calibre required for these important high level offices”.

This salary increase has generated considerable backlash amongst Australians.

On the SMH Facebook page, one Belinda Rolland commented: “So many elderly pensioners doing it so tough in this country and that parasite sits back and takes that salary home, you should be ashamed Malcolm Turnbull”.

Agreeing, one Geoff Hargraves commented this was obscene considering there was “no compassion to new start, unemployed, pensioners, or those homeless”!

PM Lee earns 47 times as much as the average worker, but says that it is “fair and realistic”

Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is the highest paid head of government in the World with a salary of approximately SGD$2.4 million a year. This is made up of a Prime Minister’s salary of $2.2 million* and an MP’s allowance of $192,000 a year.

According to statistics given by the Ministry of Manpower, the average Singaporean worker earns an annual salary of $50,784 (including Employer CPF). In other words, the ratio of the Prime Minister’s salary to that of the average worker in Singapore is an astonishing 47 times!

After protracted criticisms from members of the public, Prime Minister Lee defended the high Ministerial salaries.

At a Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau memorial centre opening last year, Lee said that Singapore’s “professional public service [has to be] paid fair and realistic wages benchmarked against the private sector, which reduces the temptation to accept bribes”.

He added that in many countries “corruption is accepted as the natural way of things and impossible to eradicate”.  This must not be reversed with low salaries as “our founding leaders a legacy that we can be proud of, and we should do our utmost to protect it”

Meanwhile, New Zealand and Denmark have been ranked as the world’s most corrupt free countries in 2017 yet their leaders do not draw exorbitantly high salaries. For example, NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern earns NZ$471,049 (SGD$437,158) annually while Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg gets about 1,573,544 Norwegian Krones (SGD$258,301).

The new Malaysian government under Prime Minister Mahathir has also reduced 10% off from the cabinet’s salary as part of the effort to reduce the debt of the country.

What do you think?

*The salary can be higher due to bonuses based on set Key Performance Index

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