Prime Minister Scott Morrison has defended Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt after the minister doubled down on comments made four years ago suggesting that politicians should be paid more.
Speaking to reporters in Tasmania, Morrison said Wyatt was not advocating for higher pay packets for politicians.
When asked if the comments were a sign his party was “out of touch”, Morrison said they did not reflect Wyatt’s current views.
“I have to correct you. He is not advocating that. He's not advocating that,” Morrison said.
“You're referring to comments that were made four years ago that had been dragged out.
“And that is not his view.”
He said politician salaries were set by an independent tribunal. “As they should be, it shouldn’t be set by politicians at all, and they aren’t," Morrison said.
“The suggestion that Ken is making those comments at this point in time is simply false.”
So what exactly did the minister say?
When approached by The Australian this week, Wyatt, who is now earning a $426k salary as a cabinet minister, did not back down from the original comments made while he was minister for aged care and Indigenous health.
Back then, he said “we don’t pay out politicians enough”.
“You want people who are going to go in and look after the interests of all Australians,” he said, also noting that he got paid more as a public servant than as a backbencher.
When approached about the comments this week, a spokesperson for Wyatt responded: “Mr Wyatt believes it’s important that our parliament attracts a diverse range of people, reflective of the Australian population.”
“He is proud to be the first Indigenous Australian elected to the House of Representatives.
“His comments were in relation to the decision he took to enter parliament, and the fact he earned more as a public servant (as director, Aboriginal Health, for Western Australia’s Department of Health) than as a backbencher.
“It’s ultimately about serving the community, and that’s why he put up his hand to represent Hasluck and is now delivering on his plan.”
Australians are doing it tough
Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Sally McManus, blasted Wyatt's comments as “out of touch”.
“At a time when the average worker is seeing their wages go backwards almost $4000 this year alone, does the Prime Minister think he and his ministers are doing it tough?” she asked.
“This is what Australian workers get from this government. We are in a cost-of-living crisis but they’re still thinking of themselves.”
So Ken Wyatt the Liberal MP for Hasluck says he should get a pay rise when he is on $426K. He says he works hard. Well so do aged care workers on $24/hour who can’t afford rent or food. If there is a list of ppl deserving pay rises, he is at the bottom.
— Sally McManus (@sallymcmanus) April 28, 2022
Labor also criticised the idea of pay rises for politicians.
— Australian Labor (@AustralianLabor) April 29, 2022