Dominic Perrottet has defended the number of NSW ministers and MPs who have received a pay boost during his six-month tenure in the top job.
The premier faced a budget estimates hearing on Thursday after a previous scheduled appearance was delayed by recent floods in the Northern Rivers.
The questioning comes as public sector employees such as nurses, teachers and transport staff agitate for pay rises above the 2.5 per cent capped annual increase, amid concerns over the rising cost of living.
Mr Perrottet said his cabinet had 26 “brilliant ministers” who received extra pay because of the additional responsibilities and duties they take on.
Other MPs receive additional pay on top of their base salary for serving on committees, or as leaders in houses of parliament.
Having a strong ministerial team was a part of securing outcomes, Mr Perrottet said.
“The cream rises to the top,” he told the committee.
He wasn’t aware of the breadth of members receiving additional salaries until he read about it in a newspaper on Thursday, saying that was proof it wasn’t a focus of his.
Labor MP Penny Sharpe said the state now had “the most expensive ministry in NSW history”.
“The largest number of parliamentary secretaries, and (almost) every single one of your backbenchers is getting a pay rise of at least $5000, and some of them, it’s around $150,000,” she said.
“You think that is perfectly reasonable?” Ms Sharpe asked.
Mr Perrottet replied that “any increase in entitlement is certainly not a focus of mine in relation to appointments of committee chairs”.
“I think they do important work on those committees and make a difference.”
Mr Perrottet said he gave no directive to provide second jobs for MPs but he expected them to achieve outcomes in their committee roles.
He expected them to add value to the work of ministers and provide substantive recommendations for the government to act on.
East Hills MP Wendy Lindsay was the only coalition MP earning a base member’s salary of $169,000 but had been a committee chair until March.
Mr Perrottet said the appointments were all merit based but there was a requirement to appoint a certain number of Nationals MPs, and it would be fair to describe that as a quota.
He has previously disputed the need for quotas when it comes to appointing women to parliamentary positions, and the most senior women ministers were Nationals, the hearing was told.
Asked about the number of women MPs earning additional salaries, Mr Perrottet said greater representation was important and “that’s something we can do better on”.
The women he appointed to cabinet during a reshuffle in December are in junior ministry roles and Mr Perrottet said he wants them to gain experience and become senior ministers.
“I’ve appointed the cabinet that I believe has the best capabilities of representing the people of our state,” he said.
“What’s important is we get strong, high-quality women into the NSW parliament and into the cabinet.”