The former Speaker, Leo McLeay, can stay on his full Speaker’s salary and allowances until a new Speaker is elected, despite his formal resignation on Monday.
A new Speaker will not be elected until Parliament sits after the election, at the earliest May 20, the day after the election writs are returned, making the extra pay worth at least $13,400.
Mr McLeay is entitled to keep the extra pay and allowances under a combination of the Parliamentary Presiding Officers Act 1965 and the Parliamentary Allowances Act 1952. These Acts are intended to deal with continuity of functions and pay in the case of a Speaker resigning or an election, or in this case both.
Mr McLeay resigned over public disquiet about a $65,000 compensation pay-out after he injured himself falling off a bicycle hired at Parliament House.
Mr McLeay sued the Commonwealth for negligence and breach of contract saying he had permanent damage to his elbow. He put the case in the hands of his lawyers to deal with as any other case. As joint head of the Joint House Department he gave approval to the settlement.
Questions were raised in Parliament about the speed and amount of the settlement and the manner in which it became public.
The Speaker’s total package is $144,189 a year. This is made up of $67,715 base MP’s pay, an MP’s electoral allowance of $23,819 and an additional $52,655 for being Speaker.
Mr McLeay’s continued entitlement of the Speaker’s pay for at least 93 days is therefore worth at least $13,400. Continued extra superannuation entitlements would add to this.
Replies to questions put to his staff yesterday about whether Mr McLeay would take his entitlement or revert to a back-bencher’s pay were not received by yesterday evening.
Mr McLeay’s resignation at the time when an election would supervene before a new Speaker could be elected is unique. Normally, a resigning Speaker would resign effective on a sitting day a be replaced the next day. When Joan Child resigned to go to the backbench before retiring from Parliament, Mr McLeay was elected to replace her the next day.
Other Speakers, however, have retained the position (and the pay) through an election period only to lose the position upon the election of the opposing party on the first day of the new sitting. Gordon Scholes, Sir Billy Snedden and Dr Harry Jenkins are examples.
At the beginning of a new Parliament, the Clerk of the House takes the chair until a Speaker is elected, which is the first function of the new House.