'Taxing' governor-general's salary proposed

BY MARTIN KAY
Last updated 05:00 18/12/2009

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The next governor-general's salary will be taxed if the Government follows recommendations from the Law Commission.

But future holders of the highest office in the land are unlikely to be hit in the pocket, with the commission predicting the $191,645 salary for the post would be increased to compensate.

At present, the governor-general is not subject to income tax and can be exempted from local taxes, rates, levies, duties or other public fees.

But the commission says the exemptions are no longer justified.

It noted the Queen had voluntarily paid tax on her private income since 1993 and the Australian governor-general had been taxed since 2001.

Subjecting future office holders to tax is unlikely to result in savings, the commission says.

"We note that this proposal may be of symbolic rather than financial significance... In Australia, when the tax exemption was removed ... the salary was increased to take account of the new tax liability."

The new tax requirement would not apply to expenses.

The commission is also calling for the governor-general's salary to be removed from the Civil List Act and set under separate legislation.

Government House public affairs manager Antony Paltridge noted that any change would not affect present Governor-General Anand Satyanand. He had been consulted and was "supportive of moves to simplify and modernise the existing legislation", Mr Paltridge said.

Justice Minister Simon Power, who has responsibility for the Law Commission, could not be contacted.

The commission's report came as the authority announced a 1.2 to 1.3 per cent increase for judges – the first determination it has made since a law change requiring it to take account of economic circumstances when setting pay for the groups it covers.

The authority said the increases recognised the large gap between the salaries paid to judges and those paid in the areas of the legal profession from which they were drawn, particularly in relation to the High Court.

Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias' salary rises from $432,000 to $437,500. The salary for Supreme Court judges and the president of the Court of Appeal rises from $405,000 to $410,000 and Court of Appeal judges go from $380,000 to $385,000.

The chief High Court judge goes from $379,000 to $384,000, other High Court judges and the chief district court judge from $362,000 to $366,500 and district court judges from $273,000 $276,500.

Judges were awarded a 4.8 per cent rise last year.

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