Meet the NSW MPs pocketing an extra $10k to do nothing
Some NSW Liberal MPs have been pocketing an extra $10,000 a year to run parliamentary committees that have failed to do any significant work, including one examining the protocol for homeless people in public spaces.
A number of first-term government MPs appointed to chair parliamentary committees are taking home $10,575 per year in additional salary despite those committees failing to produce any reports to state parliament, something Labor has called an "outrageous" political "perk".
Six of parliament's eight lower house committees are chaired by government members. Four of those committees have not produced any reports since the last election in March 2019.
Shockingly, one inquiry on the go-slow is examining "the protocol for homeless people in public places".
That's despite the fact reducing homelessness is a designated "Premier's Priority".
The inquiry relating to homelessness was launched by the Legislative Assembly Committee on Community Services in October, four months after first-term Liberal MP Wendy Lindsay was appointed chair.
The inquiry has not held any hearings, with two scheduled for August.
In a statement, the East Hills MP said "committee processes were disrupted because of the (COVID-19) pandemic".
Labor MP Rose Jackson said it was "outrageous" that committee chairs were getting extra pay "without any accountability over what work they've actually done".
Another committee under the spotlight, the Law and Safety Committee, began its first inquiry of this parliamentary term in March - almost eight months after Goulburn MP Wendy Tuckerman was appointed chair.
No hearings have yet been scheduled for its inquiry into the "physical health of police and emergency services workers in NSW".
Submissions to the inquiry would close in August, after a number of stakeholders requested an extension, Ms Tuckerman said.
Ms Tuckerman said she had also requested a committee meeting to consider Police Minister David Elliott's request for an urgent inquiry into assaults on police.
The Transport and Infrastructure Committee, chaired by Liberal Robyn Preston, began an inquiry into electric buses in October. This inquiry held two hearings in March. A further "field inspection of electric buses" had been delayed amid COVID-19, Ms Preston said.
She said the committee was working on a draft report.
The Parliamentary Privilege and Ethics Committee, chaired by Liberal Peter Sidgreaves, is not conducting a single inquiry.
Mr Sidgreaves said the committee was "currently looking at a number of matters (that) are confidential until the committee tables the report".
Ms Jackson said government MPs had been given roles chairing committees "as part of an 'everyone wins a prize' approach to parliamentary perks".
It's not just Liberal MPs pocketing extra cash without producing reports: Independent MP Alex Greenwich's Environment and Planning Committee started an inquiry into "sustainability of energy supply and resources in NSW" in July last year but has not held a single hearing.
Despite submissions for that inquiry closing in September, Mr Greenwich blamed the delay in holding any hearings on COVID-19. He said he hoped to begin hearings in August.
In contrast, the lower house Committee on Investment, Industry & Regional Development chaired by Liberal Justin Clancy has already produced an interim report for its inquiry into support for drought-affected communities.
That inquiry began in September last year, and held two online hearings in May.
Independent Lake Macquarie MP Greg Piper's Public Accounts Committee has launched five inquiries, of which four have produced reports.
Ms Jackson said parliamentary committees "play an important role" by exploring "complex policy" and making "detailed recommendations".
"If MPs are putting in the work, they should be paid appropriately," she said.
"What the public hates is when politicians get perks that aren't linked to any actual work."
Richard Sharvin, 64, who has slept under the bridge at Wentworth Park for 10 years on and off, said he was angry that an MP was being paid an extra $10,000 to investigate homelessness but had failed to do anything.
"It's money that should be going to people who need it," he said.
"We're the low ones. They should get out of their offices and come down here and talk face-to-face. Why not get out of their own little luxury and come down? See how we live."
He said services had not improved recently.
"The Salvos come every Wednesday and give us a hot meal and water," he said.
"Every now and then state housing comes by. Police come when they're looking for someone. And the nurse comes and checks on us. That's about it."
Raymond Griffiths, 54, who has slept rough in Sydney for 20 years, said homelessness had become an "industry" for the government to make money without addressing the problems.
"They don't really want us off the streets. What are they going to do about jobs then?" Mr Griffiths said.
"A bus comes down here on the weekend, comes down with showers and toilets. Only four people go and use it. It's all a waste of money."
Originally published as Meet the NSW MPs pocketing an extra $10k to do nothing