Senator Bacik speaking on the Public Service Levy
19 February 2009
Order of Business
Senator Ivana Bacik: I echo the criticisms made by Senators Cummins and O'Toole of the public service levy. The real problem at present is the uncertainty surrounding it, the fact that Ministers stated it will be tweaked and yet we have not seen any sign of that tweaking. Previously, there was tweaking done on the medical cards scheme for the over 70s and a U-turn on that. There was a U-turn, or tweaking, which ever way one likes to put it, on the 1% levy. We need to see the public service levy being tweaked in the same way so those on low incomes will not pay this disproportionate amount from their incomes. I am all in favour of a public service pension levy for those public servants who can afford it and for those who are better paid. I accept that when the private sector is taking such pain - we see workers in Dell, Waterford Wedgwood plc, SR Technics etc. being laid off - we need to pay our share in the public service, and I think public servants recognise that. However, this levy must be imposed with fairness and competence. Unfortunately, we are not seeing either of those.
I also echo calls for a debate on the difficulties in banking and scandals in banks. We have seen exposed, not just the light-touch regulation that has been passed in relatively recent times but the heavy hand of the criminal law. Even where there are criminal law powers and quite appropriate criminal law offences in legislation, these are simply not being used. As I stated previously, we are seeing a lack of enforcement as much as a failure in the legislative framework. An interesting debate on the radio last night spoke of there being over 300 staff in the Financial Regulator, and yet we are not seeing enforcement and we are not seeing the issue of simple information that people need to restore trust and confidence in the banking system.
Like Senator Donohoe, I was impressed by Senator Leyden's vocal call for the naming of the ten individuals who bailed out Anglo Irish Bank in this way but it is yet another example of Members on the Government side speaking out of both sides of their mouth.